Choosing a pediatrician is an essential step in protecting your child’s health and development. Your pediatrician will be at your side to perform physical examinations, keep an eye on your child’s development, and devise medical treatments for any injuries or illnesses that occur. You’ll likely have a long-term relationship with your child’s pediatrician, so it’s essential to pick a doctor that you get along with and trust with your baby’s health.
If you don’t already have a pediatrician in mind, it’s advisable to choose one approximately three months before your due date. In this article, we discuss some of the ways in which you can narrow down your choices to find the best doctor for your family’s needs.
Reviewing Your Doctor’s Background
It goes without saying, but you want to thoroughly vet any doctor that will be primarily responsible for your child’s wellbeing. At an absolute minimum, every practicing pediatrician should have graduated from medical school, completed a residency program, and received a license from the state they work in. Some pediatricians also voluntarily become members of The American Board of Pediatrics. Being board certified by The American Board of Pediatrics is not required to practice medicine in the U.S., but it indicates that a doctor showed capable:
- Medical knowledge
- Patient care skills
- Communication skills
Seeking a doctor who has helped children with a range of medical issues and complications to live healthy, fulfilling lives can be beneficial in the long run. A pediatrician with less experience may be more prone to committing an error resulting in medical malpractice, which can cause serious or irreversible harm in some cases. Medical mistakes, from diagnostic errors to incorrect treatments, happen with more regularity than many people expect.
Scheduling an Introductory Visit
Many pediatricians’ offices have times set aside for you to visit the facility and meet the doctor(s). You’ll be able to take a tour of the office and speak to the staff in person to get a sense of whether they’d be a good fit for your family. Offices may offer either one-on-one meetings or group sessions for expecting parents to learn more about the practice together. Be sure to confirm with your insurance that the cost of a meeting or class is covered before attending.
During the initial visit, you should check to see whether a pediatrician’s philosophy of care aligns with your own philosophy and beliefs. It’s essential for you to feel as though you can have honest discussions with your child’s doctor about the medical treatments they recommend and parenting strategies they suggest. If you feel uncomfortable after the visit, you may need to keep searching for a doctor.
Questions to Ask a Pediatrician Before Making a Decision
During your initial visit at a pediatricians’ office, there are some crucial questions you can ask to help you come to a decision. You may consider asking:
- What are the pediatrician or practice’s office hours?
- Is the doctor affiliated with a medical group or pediatric hospital?
- How easy is it to contact your pediatrician if you have urgent questions or concerns?
- If your child is injured or ill, will your pediatrician treat them or refer them to a hospital?
- What is the cost of a standard visit and how is billing handled?
- Does the practice offer online recordkeeping to help you keep up with your child’s medical profile?
- When additional care is needed, how does your pediatrician decide whether your child must see a specialist?
- Will the doctor visit the hospital after childbirth to inspect the newborn?
Who Will Care for Your Child if Your Doctor Isn’t Available?
Perhaps your doctor is on a month-long vacation to another country or is too sick to come into the office. If your child has a medical emergency, who is going to take care of them while your pediatrician is unavailable? This is one of the most important questions to ask before choosing your child’s doctor.
If your doctor runs a solo practice, make sure that there is a contingency plan to ensure your child has access to medical care when your pediatrician cannot assist them. This may entail taking your child to a local urgent care or emergency room. If this is the case, ensure that you understand what services your insurance would and wouldn’t cover in an emergency where you need to seek care from a doctor other than your pediatrician. An out-of-network visit to an emergency room can be quite expensive, and you don’t want to end up footing the full bill.
If your doctor is part of a group practice, make sure you meet the doctor(s) who may be asked to step in if your regular pediatrician is unavailable. Although they will not work as closely with your child as your regular doctor, if at all, it’s important to gauge their medical philosophies and make sure they are a good fit for your family.
Check How the Office Runs & How Billing is Handled
It’s vital to find a pediatrician that has the experience, skillset, and demeanor to provide the highest-quality care for your child. However, you should also pay close attention to how efficiently a pediatricians’ office is run. You may find an excellent doctor who has the ability to keep your child healthy, but discover that it’s difficult to work with their office staff or hard to schedule an appointment on short notice. You should consider:
- Whether you can schedule an emergency visit on short notice
- Whether the office hours match your schedule
- The importance of the pediatrician being available in the evenings or on weekends, either for routine visits or emergencies
- The cost of a standard visit, emergency visit, and whether you are expected to pay the full price before leaving the pediatricians’ office
- What services are covered under your medical insurance plan
Finding an office that’s compatible with your lifestyle can relieve quite a bit of stress and hassle in the future, so it’s essential to not neglect this aspect of your search for a quality doctor.
Finding the Right Pediatrician for Your Family
Every doctor brings a unique perspective and skillset to the table, and it’s important to pick the pediatrician that you feel aligns with your values and needs. We hope that this article has helped you discover the perfect pediatrician to keep your child healthy and happy for many years to come!