Pediatricians: When & How To Find One.

Taken from: http://www.babyresource.com/pediatrician.htm

What is a pediatrician?

The American Academy Of Pediatrics has what many consider to be the finest parenting book available, called "Caring For Your Baby And Young Child Birth To Age 5". In this book they have defined what a pediatrician is for those who are confused about the difference between pediatricians and regular doctors:

"Pediatricians are graduates of 4 year medical schools with 3 additional years of residency training solely in pediatrics"

This means they are doctors with at least 3 years of supervised training where they acquire the skills to treat a broad range of afflictions from basic childhood illness to the most serious of diseases. Some pediatricians may also have additional training in sub specialties like neonatal care, child cardiology, or other special problems. Your regular pediatrician can help you find a pediatrician whose sub specialty matches your child's ailment.

Where And When To Start looking For A Pediatrician

You should begin searching for a pediatrician in the final months of pregnancy and both parents should be present at the interview. Forget about the yellow pages, newspaper ads or flyers, you cannot get an informed opinion of a pediatrician from an advertisement. When choosing a pediatrician, a good place to start is by asking your trusted friends for a recommendation. Your friends will tell you if they are happy with their pediatrician. This will move you right to the winners circle of finalists. You should ask why your friends recommend their doctor, and how long have they been with that doctor. It is very important that you find a pediatrician who you feel completely comfortable with. As a new parent you should be able to ask them anything, no matter how trivial it may seem.

Perform A Quick Background Check On The Pediatrician

Start with a list of a few good candidates and narrow it down to your final choice. Before you interview a pediatrician you can check with the Federation Of State Medical Boards (FSMB) to see if there have been any serious disciplinary actions, or professional peer reviews against the pediatrician. The FSMB Website has links to your state, or you can call them at 1-817-868-4000 to get the number for your state board. You can also get consumer advocate books from the Director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group that keep track of doctors that have been disciplined by a state or the federal government.

Questions To Ask A Pediatrician

Pediatrician Background, Credentials, Experience

  • When and where did the pediatrician complete medical school and residency?
  • Are they a member of the American Academy Of Pediatrics or any other specialty organization?
  • How long has the pediatrician been in practice?
  • Does the pediatrician have any areas of subspecialty?
  • What hospitals does the pediatrician have privileges at?
  • How soon after the baby is born will the pediatrician come to see it at the hospital?
  • How does the pediatrician feel about mothers calling in after hours over "little things"?
  • Is there a specific time during the day that the doctor will take phone calls?

Office Logistics

  • Is the office conveniently located for less travel time with a sick child? Does the practice have multiple offices you can visit?
  • What are the office hours and are there any early morning or late evening hours for working parents?
  • How long in advance must you book appointments?
  • Are there any diagnostic facilities on site such as X-rays, blood work, etc.?
  • What lab work can be performed at the pediatrician's office?
  • Is there a specific time during the day that the doctor will take phone calls, and how does the office handle your phone in questions?
  • Does the doctor answer any general questions by email?
  • How does the office deal with after hours emergencies?
  • Is there a 24 hour answering services that can connect you to a doctor?
  • Who covers for the doctor when they are on vacation?
  • Does the office mail out reminders for scheduled immunizations and checkups?

Fees, Methods of Payment

  • How much are the fees for standard office visits?
  • Are immunization shots extra, or are they included in the office visit charge?
  • Does the pediatrician accept your insurance?
  • How are insurance claims handled, and will the pediatrician bill your insurance company directly.
  • Do they accept checks and credit cards?
  • Is payment due at the time visit, or will the pediatrician bill you?
  • What happens if you miss a scheduled visit? Can you easily reschedule?

What To Look For In A Pediatrician

Don't just choose the first pediatrician you meet, interview a few candidates. A good pediatrician has more than just the core competencies of disease treatment, which are reactive measures. Your pediatrician should also be knowledgeable in proactive qualities such as disease prevention, and child development. Your pediatrician should also be warm, compassionate, and open minded to your thoughts and feelings, and shares similar views. Make sure your insurance covers the pediatrician you want to choose. Make sure you interview all potential pediatricians, and verify that the pediatrician you interview will actually be the one who sees your child. There should be no charge for this interview consultation.

Items to look for when you interview a potential pediatrician:

  • Find out if the practice have more than one office. It may be more convenient for some people if their pediatrician has more than one office or belongs to a network. Find out where the pediatrician spends most of their time and how the time is divided.
  • Always visit the office and do an interview with the doctors before making a decision. Look around the office. Is it clean? Is there a separate waiting area for "sick" and "well" kids? Some pediatric practices have only one waiting area. This causes "sick" kids to be in mixed the same waiting area as "well" kids waiting for their regular monthly checkups, vaccinations etc. Young kids are always putting toys in their mouths, and having sick patients play with a toy that "well" patient plays with is a very easy way for germs to spread.
  • While at the office, talk to the staff. Are they friendly and accommodating? As a parent you will be dealing the pediatricians staff on a regular basis the first couple of years of your child's life. It is important that the staff listen to your concerns and questions. Look for a practice that will accommodate your schedule when making appointments to see the doctor.
  • Ask the pediatrician what they do to stay current with the latest trends in disease prevention, treatment, nutrition, behavioral problems, and child development concepts. What type of continuing education do they use?
  • Determine if you want a male or female doctor. As kids get older, they tend to prefer doctors who are of their same sex.
  • Do you want an old doctor or a young doctor? Older doctors of course have experience, but may be retired before your child grows older. Also, some older doctors may be "set in their ways", and don't embrace new trends or technology. On the other hand, younger doctors might be more adapting to the rapid advances in medicine and behavioral studies. Younger doctors may also lack years of seasoned experience.

Once You Have Been Visiting A Pediatrician: Things to look out for:

You may wish to seek an alternative pediatrician if:

  • Does the pediatrician over treat your child for simple ailments, running a battery of tests that rack up your bills?
  • Does the pediatrician get upset when you seek a second opinion?
  • Does the pediatrician make you feel uncomfortable or stupid when you ask for additional details?
  • Does the staff make you feel uncomfortable when you call with concerns or emergencies?
  • Do you or your child feel uncomfortable with the pediatrician's bedside manner?
  • Does the pediatrician seem unwilling to listen to your concerns?