Say you want to find out whether a doctor has a license to practice in Washington state, or whether a nurse in Whatcom County was disciplined for using drugs.
Or you're looking for information on which nursing home in Bellingham gets high marks for hiring people with no legal history of abusing or mistreating residents, or how the 19 nursing homes within a 50-mile radius stack up against each other.
You can find that information, thanks to public records kept on federal and state websites, including results of inspections, as part of efforts to keep consumers in the know.
For example, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services keeps a variety of comparison tools online with information about the quality of nursing homes, hospitals, home health agencies, dialysis treatment centers and Medicare-related insurance plans.
Find them all at medicare.gov.
To check on facilities, click on "Facilities & Doctors" and select "Compare Hospitals," "Compare Nursing Homes" or "Compare Home Health Agencies."
Or click on "Resource Locator" from the home page to get those same options, along with other tracking information. The links allow you to search according to geographic area, types of services provided, as well as quality of the care.
At the Washington State Department of Health's online site, doh.wa.gov, you can check the credentials of a wide array of health-care workers, and whether state inspectors are taking action against a worker accused of wrongdoing.
To do so, click on "Provider Credential Search" on the left side of the home page.
The site also allows you to see whether health care facilities are licensed.
The state Department of Health also has put up a website to allow consumers to track and compare how well hospitals in the state control infection. Find it by typing Healthcare Associated Infections Program into the search window at doh.wa.gov.
You also can find information on the average and median prices that hospitals charge for procedures by checking out the online database maintained by the Washington State Hospital Association. Do so by going to wahospitalpricing.org.
At that website, the association posts comparisons of the quality of treatment hospitals provide for heart attacks, heart failure, pneumonia, hospital infections, patient satisfaction and children's asthma care.
This is one in a series of stories publishing during Sunshine Week, March 13-19, on accessing public documents or meetings in Whatcom County. For more, go to out Open Government web page.