Whether you’re expecting your first child, or you’re a seasoned parent, it’s really important to choose the right pediatrician – and pediatrics practice – to care for your kiddos. Chances are, between well check-ups and sick visits, you’ll be spending a lot of time at the pediatricians’ office.
Here are a few easy steps to help you choose a pediatrician, and pediatrics practice, for your child:
1. Ask For Referrals
To begin your search, start by asking for direct referrals from other parents. This way, you can get a pretty good idea of pediatricians that you would consider visiting and ones that you would rather pass on. I did this when I was pregnant with my first baby and ended up finding a doctor, and practice, that we all loved.
Once you have a few providers to choose from, narrow down your list. It’s wise to choose a pediatrician that is a part of a multi-provider practice (more on this in #3). Also, consider things such as location and office hours that are convenient for you.
2. Make Sure the Pediatrician is In-Network With Your Insurance
Once you have a list of potential candidates, you’ll want to make sure those physicians accept your insurance or Medicaid. Don’t rely on your insurance company’s website to check this information. Their lists are often outdated or just plain wrong. Call the pediatrician’s practice directly and ask if their providers are in-network with your insurance.
Also, if you’re pregnant and delivering in a hospital, you’ll want to ask the pediatricians if they make rounds in the facility where you’ll be delivering your new baby.
3. Choose the Right Pediatrics Practice
Choosing the right pediatric practice is just as important as choosing the right pediatrician. Here are some questions to ask when deciding which practice is right for you and your family:
- Do you have extended and/or weekend hours or coverage? This can make a world of difference, especially for parents who need more flexibility than typical 9-5 office hours can provide. The practice we chose had multiple providers, was open until 6:30 pm on weekdays and ran an urgent care clinic on the weekends.
- Do you have separate waiting areas for sick visits? If possible, you don’t want your kid who is coming in for a well-child check-up to mingle with kids who are coming in with the flu. Separate waiting rooms lessens the chance of germs spreading from sick children to those who are feeling well.
- Do you have a designated flu clinic? Our pediatric practice set aside a chunk of time during flu season specifically to dole out flu shots. There was no charge for an office visit and we were in and out in a jiffy. This is an excellent perk to expect from a pediatric practice.
- Will my child see the same provider every time? In some practices, it’s not unusual for patients to rotate through all the doctors within the clinic. This way, the medical staff gets to know all of the kids and vice versa. Many practices also employ nurse practitioners (NP) and/or physicians assistants (PA) that may be involved in your children’s care.
4. Check Pediatricians’ Credentials
Now that you’ve found a few physicians and practices to consider, it’s time to do a little research. You can lookup pediatricians’ and physician assistants’ licenses, education, and certifications at the Federation of State Medical Boards. Disciplinary actions, if they’ve had any, will also be listed on this site. If you do come across any actions against a doctor or PA you can research the details on their state board of medicine’s website.
Be sure that the pediatrician you choose is board certified. You can verify physicians’ certifications in any specialty at the American Board of Medical Specialties website.
If you want to find out more about nurse practitioners’ credentials, check out the National Council of State Boards of Nursing website.
5. Make Your Decision
When you’ve narrowed down your preferred providers, it’s time to make a decision. I suggest you write out a list of each pediatrician including their office location, practice hours, weekend coverage options, hospital affiliation, waiting area options (is there a separate area for sick visits?), credentials, and flu clinic availability. You may also want to include notes based on what you’ve heard from other parents or providers (i.e.: “great bedside manner” or “really great with adolescents”).
Some practices offer quick ‘get to know you’ visits so that you can meet the physicians you’re considering and get a feel for the practice. Call and ask if you and your child can do a meet and greet with the pediatricians you’re considering.
Once you’ve chosen a pediatrician, the work doesn’t stop there. It’s really important to be proactive and stay on top of your child’s care. Studies have shown that folks who are actively engaged in their own healthcare (or the care of a loved one) have better outcomes, receive safer care and are more likely to avoid medical errors.
Here are a few tips that will help you be a steadfast advocate for your child:
1. Be Prepared for Appointments
Being prepared for your child’s medical appointments ahead of time will save time for you and your doctor. It’ll also ensure that you get all of your concerns addressed and questions answered. Print this time-saving checklist and bring it with you to every appointment.
My free Health & Wellness Planner can also help you keep track of your child’s health and be prepared for their doctor visits.
2. Ask Lots of Questions
Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions when it comes to your child’s care. If you’re given information that you don’t understand, ask for clarification. If your doctor, NP or PA is dismissive of your concerns, don’t hesitate to find a new provider.
Whenever your child is prescribed medications, use this Medications Quick Guide to help you understand what questions to ask. And remember to always ask for generics when possible. They are cheaper and many insurances won’t cover brand name drugs if there’s a generic equivalent.
It’s important to know that most common conditions (such as colds and the flu) that prompt visits to the pediatrician do not require antibiotics. Antibiotics do not treat viruses and most upper respiratory illnesses are viral! To understand the very serious downsides of antibiotics, have a look at this eye-opening article.
Finally, if your pediatrician recommends a test or procedure ask all of the questions on this list before you say yes. Unnecessary medical care is quite common in the United States. Not only is needless care costly, but it can potentially cause harm and increases the chance of medical errors happening.
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Get a Second Opinion
If your child is diagnosed with a serious illness or chronic condition, always get a second opinion. This is especially important if intensive treatments, procedures or surgery has been recommended. Sometimes, third and fourth opinions are also needed depending on the diagnosis.
4. Go With Your Gut
Numerous studies have shown that parents’ gut instincts about their children’s health are often accurate and that doctors should take them seriously. You know your child better than anyone and you know when something’s not right.
Go with your gut when it comes to your child’s physical or mental health. If the doctor (or NP or PA) is dismissive or ignores your concerns, then it’s really important to find another provider who will take you seriously.
Also, if your child gets a diagnosis that you feel may be wrong, or receives treatments that are just not working, then, by all means, get a second (and maybe third and fourth) opinion. Each year, an estimated 40,000 to 80,000 people die due to diagnostic errors in the U.S. alone. By being actively involved in your child’s care, and asking lots of questions, you can help prevent medical errors and diagnostic mistakes.
5. Know When to Hold ‘Em, Know When to Fold ‘Em
Yes, that was a Kenny Rogers reference. I love that song.
But seriously, I hope you find a pediatrician and practice that you and your child loves. If you do–hold ’em!
My family was really lucky to find a great group of physicians who were compassionate, competent and caring professionals. Our concerns were heard, we could ask lots of questions and accessing care was convenient.
If, however, you find that the pediatrician and practice you’ve chosen isn’t a good fit for your family, it’s OK to move on. Go right ahead and fold ’em.
- Take your time choosing a pediatrician for your family. You’ll likely be spending a lot of time with them so it’s important to find the right fit.
- Choosing the right practice is just as important as choosing the right doctor. Think about things such as office hours, weekend coverage, flu clinics, and separate sick waiting areas when making your decision.
- Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions when it comes to your child’s healthcare. Studies have shown that people who are actively engaged in their own care (or the care of a loved one) get better, safer and often more affordable medical services.
- If your child has been diagnosed with a serious illness or chronic condition, always get a second (and maybe third or fourth) opinion. Especially if recommended treatments are intensive.
- Listen to your instincts. If you feel something is wrong with your child but your concerns are being dismissed, find another provider ASAP.
- If you feel that your pediatrician(s) isn’t a good fit for your family, then it’s OK to move on.
I hope this article helps you find the right pediatrician and practice for your family!
And don’t forget to grab your FREE Health & Wellness Planner here.
Have a question for me? Or want to share your experience with the healthcare system? Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
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