Finally, you’re pregnant! The day you have been waiting for! You are overjoyed at the wonderful thought of parenthood. Along with those thoughts, you begin to experience all kinds of joyous congratulations, showers, preparing a nursery, etc. Then one day you suddenly realize that everything is prepared, the baby will be here in a few weeks or days and you have forgotten to choose a pediatrician.
Realize that you do not have to panic and make a quick decision that you may regret later. There are many ways to choose a pediatrician, however, there are even more things to consider.
Ask yourself the following questions:
1. Is it important to you to have a male or female physician for your child? If you are having a girl, you may want to consider a female physician. As your daughter grows near her pre-teen years, she will probably be more comfortable with a female physican. The same is true of having a baby boy and choosing a male physician. Then again, it may not matter to you. This is a very personal choice, but sometimes, as babies, we really don’t think about the choice, but it can be important as the child gets older – especially important to your child.
2. Is the location of the pediatrican’s office important to you? Is it important for you to have someone right down the street? Or, does it matter if you have to drive across town or even to another city? This may or may not be an issue. To some people, it is so important to be close to home. To others, the quality of the office and the doctor is more important than the distance.
3. If you have made a potential choice, does that doctor accept your insurance? If you have a secondary insurance, does that doctor accept and file secondary as well? And, what are the financial policies of the office? Do you have to pay at check in or at check out? Do you have to pay your deductible up front? If you become unemployed or have a financial hardship, is the office willing to work with you? Do they have policies in place to help you with making a payment plan if you run into an unexpected problem? And, if for some reason, you were to have an outstanding balance and could not pay before your next visit, would they still see your child?
4. Does the doctor’s office have more than one physician? If so, will you see the same doctor everytime or will you see a different doctor at random for visits whether for well or for sick? For continuity of care, I recommend choosing an office where you have your own primary doctor. You should be seen by this primary doctor for well visits and follow up visits at all times. You should only see one of the other doctors if your primary doctor is not there due to vacation, etc. This gives you and your child a bond of trust with that same doctor. This too, is an area of personal choice. It is perfectly alright to choose a practice where there are multiple doctors that you see at random, if you are comfortable with that.
5. Are there procedures in place for after hours and weekend care if I have an issue outside of office hours? You need to know this policy before making a final decision. You need to know if there is a doctor or nurse on call that can guide you by phone with instructions when you have an emergency, or even a simple questions such as medication dosing or what to do for fevers. Since an illness or injury can occur at any time without warning, it is important to know that you can count on your doctor’s office to be there for you 24/7. There is always the option of urgent care, however, this is not always the best option because the doctors who work in those facilities are normally not specialized in pediatrics. You can also go to an emergency room at a hospital. If so, you need to know that your child’s doctor can be called and even come in to meet you at the ER if necessary. And, you also want to choose a hospital that has a children’s emergency room self-standing if at all possible. This way you are assured your child will get the very best care possible.
6. Request a meeting with the doctor you are considering. Some offices have “pre-natal” visits where you can go meet/greet the doctor, take a tour of the office, meet the office manager, staff, etc. This is a great way to get a “feel” if that particular office is for you. Is there a sick waiting room and a well waiting room? Is the staff friendly? Is the office clean? Is it child friendly? Do you feel a comfort zone there?
7. If you choose this physician, what happens if your child needs a specialist? For example, if your child were to need to go to an ENT or Pediatric Center, does that office take care of that for you? Or, are you expected to search for that person and set it up yourself? A really good office, will have a full-time referral specialist. That person will be given an order by the doctor. That person will be skilled in knowing exactly where to send your child. That person will be responsible for making the contact, preparing records, contacting your insurance company for any authorizations, and making you aware of the appointment date and time. You should be able to develop a bond with the referral specialist so much so that you can pick up the phone and call that person and tell them what you need. For a referral, you shouldn’t have to do anything but show up at the specialist’s office. You have enough stress to worry about going to a specialist, so a good office will take care of those things for you.
8. What are the policies of the billing department? When do bills go out? When is payment expected? What methods of payment are accepted? Is there a person you can speak to concerning a question? Make sure that you are informed about all aspects of an office you are considering.
9. What can you expect from the nursing staff? Like the doctor, will that doctor always have the same nurse or will it be a different one each time? How are shots handled? Do they allow you to stay in the room? Do they send you out? What about lab work? Will they stick your child more than once? Do they have a certified pediatric lab technician or will the nurses do it? What is the policy on immunizations? What is the policy on having forms filled out, prescriptions called in, or shot records prepared and is there a charge for this or a wait time? Again, be well informed so that there are no surprises.
10. Last but not least, look at the overall picture. In making a decision if this pediatrician is right for you and your child, also ask yourself the final question: “Is this office as a whole a good fit for me?” Consider everything involved. See if you get a “warm fuzzy” when you made the first contact thru the whole process until now. Wow, you thought it was so simple to decide, didn’t you? Arm yourself with all the information you need to make a good decision. In taking the time to do so, you will be so much happier and you and your child will be off to a long healthy and happy relationship with your pediatrician.