Finding a Doctor for Your Child
Determine which hospitals the doctor is affiliated with. In the event your child will one day require admission into a hospital it is important to know the reputation and location of the hospitals that you may be using.
Children get sick at the most inopportune times. Before you commit to a doctor, find out what the office hours are and how to contact the doctor after hours.
Many doctors have both evening and weekend hours. This is especially helpful for working parents who may not be able to get to the office during the daytime hours.
If there is a group practice, determine the number of doctors involved. Generally speaking, the larger the practice, the less accessibility you will have to a particular doctor. The more doctors might ensure that your child can receive more prompt attention even when your regular physician is unavailable. The trade-off is that if you see a different doctor at each visit it is more difficult for you and your child to become more comfortable with the physician.
Contacting the Physician
Find out how the doctor’s call back or telephone system works. A first time parent may have questions that need answers but do not necessarily require an office visit. Many doctors have designated times for parents to call the office. Others establish call back times when they return phone calls to parents. It is also important to know who is giving phone advice. Sometimes, for routine questions, the doctor may designate a nurse or medical assistant to answer your inquiries. If you will not be comfortable with this procedure ask if you can speak directly with the doctor.
Ask who will cover for your doctor if he or she is away. In many group practices the partners will cover for each other. In smaller practices your doctor may have a doctor outside of the practice covering during the time when he or she is away.
How the Doctor Handles Emergency Procedures
Ask if the office can handle common childhood emergencies. Some doctors will handle minor suturing (stitches) and other injuries in the office while others will refer you to an express care facility or the emergency department of a hospital.
The Doctor's Office Staff
It is recommended that you visit the office before making a decision on a doctor. You can gather a lot of information by simply spending time in the reception area. Talk to other parents. Ask about the usual waiting time for both well child and sick visits. Determine if there is a separate area for well and ill children. Many offices segregate the children in order to reduce disease transmission.
Listen to the office staff as they interact with both parents and children. Are they friendly and helpful?
Insurance and payment Details
Before selecting a doctor ask if they will accept your type of medical insurance. Some insurers will provide you with a list of participating doctors. Always verify that the doctor is still participating with your insurer before making a final decision.
If you do not have medical insurance or your policy does not cover well child visits and immunizations find out how the payment plan works. Ask if you are required to pay for all services as they are rendered or can you make payments over time.
Meet the Doctor Ahead of Time
Once you have information about a particular doctor, request a personal interview with the doctor. Even if the doctor comes with strong recommendations from a family member or friend it is best to set up a face to face meeting before you make a final selection.
During your interview try to get a feel for the general philosophy of the doctor regarding some common childhood issues. Does the doctor advocate breast-feeding? If so, does he or she offer resources to assist new mothers who may be having difficulties with feeding?
What are the doctor’s views about allowing babies to cry, disciplining children and dealing with sleeping problems? Are you comfortable with the answers? If you feel intimidated or belittled by the doctor’s response to such questions you may not be comfortable interacting with this physician at a later time when you need help in dealing with your own parenting issues.
Before making a final decision regarding a doctor gather all of the information that you have obtained. If there is doubt about selecting a particular doctor go with your gut feeling. If you have reservations about a physician before the birth of your child, chances are good that you will not be comfortable with that doctor after your child is born.