Historically most parents choose a pediatrician who has been their own pediatrician because they have become comfortable with this doctor for most of their lives. This usually happens when the new parent lives in the same area or close proximity to that pediatrician so it’s an easy and natural progression to introduce their new child to their old doctor. However, what’s more common these days is a new parent or sometimes an experienced parent chooses a pediatrician who is not the one they grew up with. This has a lot to do with the transient way our lives have evolved over time. People are moving more for many reasons. Once settled in a new area they eventually start looking for healthcare.
With this comes the question: Who should I choose to be my child’s pediatrician? There are several ways to go about this. If you have a circle of friends who already have children you ask them for recommendations. Another important way of selecting a pediatrician is based on insurance, does the pediatrician accept the insurance you have. You can usually find this on the insurance carrier website where it lists the providers who accept your insurance. Lately, people choose their pediatrician based on social media responses, Google ratings among other factors.
Once you have narrowed down who you may choose as a pediatrician you may want to set up an in- office interview. Most practices have this as an option where a new parent can come in and meet the prospective new doctor before they make a commitment. Usually the practice may have a fee for this visit which is worth it since most will use that fee as a credit on your account for future visits where co-pays and deductibles can be applied. If your time does not permit this then you can ask your friends or references more questions such as how that person’s child responds to the doctor – each child is different but if you see some similarities in your child you can get a sense how the doctor will be with yours. Another important thing to find out is how available the doctor is for questions and appointments. Many offices now have electronic messaging that patients can use to directly communicate with the doctor for non-urgent matters. Another question you can ask is whether the doctor provides a satisfactory amount of information about asthma, ADHD & ADD, growth and development to name a few if they apply to you. Some parents like to seek out doctors with specific skills such as Breastfeeding Counseling or Nutritional Counseling.
A very important question to ask is how much time the doctor spends with your child. The actual number doesn’t matter. What’s more important is if the parent feels like the time was enough for the problems to be addressed and if the pediatrician makes a meaningful connection with the child and family. Another important factor is how fast you can get in to see the doctor, especially if your child has an immediate need. Same day or next day appointments is an important factor to consider.
The size of the practice is an element that should not be understated. By size I’m referring to number of providers (pediatricians, nurse practitioners or physician assistants) on site. A large practice may offer more opportunities to get your child in sooner, however, you may not see your regular pediatrician. Many busy families don’t mind this accommodation especially for sick or urgent needs but prefer to see their selected pediatrician as much as possible.
A major consideration to have especially if your child has a chronic illness is where the doctor was trained. Having training at a major teaching hospital for residency usually ensures that a pediatrician will have exposure to multiple kinds of patients and chronic illnesses. This kind of exposure aids in the doctor’s training and so when they are in practice and come across patients who have certain unique ailments, chances are they would have had some real-life experience with it not just from text books. This goes a long way in patient care.
Finally, keep an open mind and make an informed decision. A good pediatrician will partner with the parents to advocate for the child whether it is with the schools or with the insurance companies. The goal of the pediatrician is to be an active part of the child’s – “Medical Home”. A unit that ensures that the child’s health and well-being is paramount while working with the parents, the schools, pharmacies and the wider community to ensure the overall success of the child. “It takes a village to raise a child.”
Najla A. Abdur-Rahman, M.D., FAAP is a Johns Hopkins Trained, Board Certified Pediatrician who is Medical Director of Willoughby Beach Pediatrics in Baltimore County, MD. She is a practicing Pediatrician with an active Community outreach program, has a passion for Breast feeding consulting, Obesity counseling and focuses on the overall well-being of the children and families in her practice.
Willoughby Beach Pediatrics
7001 Johnnycake Rd., Suite 101
Baltimore, MD 21244