Whether you’re an expectant mother, recently relocated parent, or dissatisfied patient, looking for a pediatrician can seem like a daunting task.
How do you know if a pediatrician is well qualified? What questions should you ask the office and the physician to find the right match for you and your family? What factors should you consider?
Here’s some advice I share with my friends when they’re looking for a pediatrician.
Where to Begin? Keep your eyes open for pediatric offices in your community. Most pediatricians get the majority of their referrals from word-of-mouth. If there’s an office that comes highly recommended by multiple families, take this endorsement as a positive sign and add that office to your list to contact. But beware—you may have friends who give rave reviews to a pediatric practice that’s 45 minutes away. Do you want to drive that far to see your doctor when you have a sick child?
Also make sure the offices you’re considering accept your insurance. That may seem obvious, but if you don’t ask this up front, you may expend a lot of energy for nothing!
Some Preliminary Questions. Is the office independent or affiliated with a hospital system? Although affiliation doesn’t require you to use that hospital for specialists, admissions and the like, there are advantages to such a relationship. The pediatric practice often has access to technical resources, specialists and continuing medical education opportunities through its affiliated institution.
Is the office on electronic medical records (EMR)? This is helpful because prescriptions can be sent electronically to pharmacies from your doctor’s computer—very helpful for busy parents. Also, records are clear and accessible to multiple parties, so medical errors are reduced.
What are the hours of the practice? Are there weekend and evening hours? This could be especially important to working parents. Who covers calls to the practice overnight, on holidays and weekends? If you call with a question, will you get an answering service or a medical professional on the phone?
Once You Have a List, Start Calling and Visiting. What kind of reception did you get when you made your first call to the office? Is the office manager or a physician willing to sit down with you to answer questions and orient you to the practice? First impressions are important. Remember, it’s not just the physicians you’ll be dealing with; it’s the office staff as well. Are they kind, helpful and polite?
If possible, try to visit the office. Is the space clean and pleasant? Don’t be influenced by bells and whistles, though—toys harbor germs and may be banned for good reason. Also important, is there a separate “sick” and “well” entrance?
Consider Your Particular Needs. Would you feel more comfortable with a pediatrician who is a parent? Perhaps you have a teenage boy who would feel more comfortable with a male physician. Or you have a child with special needs and would like your doctor to be proactive in helping you coordinate care. Maybe you plan to breastfeed and want a pediatrician who’s knowledgeable and supportive of nursing.
Ask about the pediatrician’s credentials. Your pediatrician should be board certified by the American Board of Pediatrics.
Be vocal when you’re interviewing and trust your gut! Do you get a warm fuzzy feeling from your visit? Or do you have nagging doubts this isn’t a good fit?
Know that in an office of several physicians, there’s generally a personality fit for everyone! If you find the right office but the first pediatrician isn’t “the one,” don’t give up! Ask to see a different doctor the next time. Don’t worry—no one will judge you.
With a little research, your relationship with your pediatrician will be a long and rewarding one!
Bethany Kutz, M.D., currently practices general pediatrics at CHOP Care Network Chadds Ford in Glen Mills. Her interests include newborn care, breastfeeding support and asthma/allergies. She and husband Jason have a “working lab” at home, with their 8-year-old daughter and 10- and 12-year-old sons. Find out more at CHOP.edu; 610-358-2778.