Whether you’re expecting a baby, new to town or unhappy with your previous provider, finding a pediatrician for your child is likely one of the items high on your to-do list. Having a pediatrician you see regularly not only helps you track your child’s developmental milestones, it’s essential to be established with a practice so that you have a provider familiar with your child’s history when health concerns arise.
With so many pediatric options available, beginning the search can be daunting. There are medical doctors, osteopathic doctors and nurse practitioners; pediatric-specific practices and family practices; providers focusing on traditional healthcare and those with more holistic approaches. As you begin to sift through your options, here are some questions to consider.
Are They Recommended?
Asking pediatrician recommendations from friends or family members who share your health values is a great way to focus your search. With a few names in hand, you can do further research to see if any of the recommendations are a good fit for your family. First, check out the provider’s website for basic information and then schedule a consultation interview for a more intimate look at the practice, keeping in mind that even a provider who comes highly recommended by someone you trust doesn’t necessarily make them the right one for your family.
Where are They Located?
Think through the times of day you’re likely to be visiting the pediatrician and where you’ll be during that time, whether that’s work, home, or your child’s school or daycare facility. When your child is sick, you want access to be easy.
Do They Meet Basic Requirements?
Before diving into any further research, make sure that the provider you’re considering meets basic standards of care. There are several things Dr. Gregory L. Smith, MD, of Southpointe Pediatrics recommends you look into. Do they accept your insurance? What are the provider’s qualifications—are they a doctor, nurse practitioner or a physician’s assistant—and will you see the same person every time?
“Also choose a pediatrician who goes to the hospital you plan to utilize for delivery or anything else afterwards,” Smith recommends. “You don’t want someone who would be unable to care for your child in a hospital-based setting.”
What’s Their Communication Style?
Learning about how both the office and the doctor will communicate with you will give you a sense of the office culture. Are the receptionists friendly and do they provide clear information? If you have a medical question, are you able to talk directly to a doctor or nurse? How are after-hours concerns handled? Does the office use a portal system for communicating appointments, billing and test results, and if not, how do they share that information? While these things might not necessarily be deal breakers, it’s good to know what to expect communication-wise and if it fits your preferences. “To have a good patient/physician relationship you have to have good trust,” Smith says. “If you walk out not feeling right, it’s probably not the right fit.”
What Is the Office Like?
During a consultation, get a sense of how the office itself feels. “You want comfort with the location, facility and people caring for your child, especially since you will be there often,” Smith says. Take notice if sick children are separated from wellness visits in the waiting area, and whether you find it an inviting atmosphere. Ultimately, you want a place where you and your children feel welcome and at ease.
Do They Share Your Healthcare Values?
Scanning the practice’s website and meeting for a consultation can give you an idea if the doctor aligns with your healthcare values. Smith recommends asking them about their views on things like vaccinations, how they treat common child illnesses, and how frequently they want to see children for wellness visits. You may also ask about their views on breastfeeding, circumcision, medication use, and alternative or integrative medicine approaches, as well as if they have knowledge on any special medical concerns that affect your child. Overall, get a sense of if they listen to your questions and concerns and if you feel comfortable at the office. If anything doesn’t feel right, question it further.
It may take some time to find a pediatrician that is the right fit for your family, and that’s OK. Keep the conversation open with your pediatrician by asking good questions, voicing any concerns you have as they arise, and advocating for your child at all times. Remember, if you are unhappy with your provider for any reason, you’re not stuck with them forever. However, ultimately, you hope you can find a provider who will care for your children from the time they’re a baby until they head off to college.