When your first child is on the way, you are probably overwhelmed with decisions. There is a nursery to set up, planning for time off work after delivery, and of course, the challenge of selecting a name. One choice that often slips through the cracks in all this activity is your new baby’s pediatrician.
Many parents simply choose based on the recommendation of a friend or their obstetrician, but that’s not always best. Ideally, the pediatrician who will be treating your child will be with you for several years, and that makes it very important to make a very practical decision about who it is. Think about these five parts of that decision.
Research Professional Credentials
The first step for doctors who have completed their education is to pass the boards. Like many standardized tests, there are many strategies for successfully completing credentials like pediatrics board certification.
What you need to know as a parent is that any of your potential choices must have passed boards in order to be considered a pediatrician. It’s not enough to take your child to the family doctor who sees the adults in your household. Pediatrics is a specialty, and your doctor will have the credentials to prove that he or she knows the particular needs of young patients.
Consider Patient Load
Your first question to a prospective pediatrician for your child is whether the practice is accepting new patients.
Some doctors rarely turn anyone away, while others carefully manage their load to ensure reasonable wait time and adequate time for each office visit. If you stop by the office and find it packed with kids every time you visit, there may be too many patients for the doctor to do a good job with your child. A realistic patient load will help your doctor get to know your child as a person instead of just the next folder hanging on a door.
Check Out the Office
Your first trip to a doctor’s office may find a brightly-lit space with toys and TVs to keep children occupied until the doctor can see them. It is true that kids need something to keep them busy and calm until their names are called, but that’s not the only thing you should look for.
See if the practice has a “well-child” waiting room where kids who are not sick can wait their turn separate from those who may be contagious. This will reduce your child’s risk of becoming exposed to the flu, strep, and of course, coronavirus, as well as other communicable diseases.
Ask About Admitting Privileges
You probably don’t want to think about the possibility of your child being hospitalized, but it does happen. There are some practical reasons for wanting your child in a particular hospital. There may be specialties available in a certain facility, you may live closer to one hospital, or you may even work in the hospital. The reason all of this matters during the process of choosing a pediatrician is that doctors only have admitting privileges at certain hospitals. Ask each prospect where he or she admits patients. Ask the doctor why he or she chose to practice there in case they have insight that could change your opinion.
Verify Insurance Coverage
This is an important issue in every single medical decision you make, but it’s an easy one to forget. Before you quiz a doctor about admission, make sure that the hospital you want is in your coverage network. If not, the cost can be astronomical. And of course, the same goes for the pediatrician.
Talk to the office manager and your insurance provider about what the costs will be for you to bring your child to that particular doctor. Remember that you may encounter difficulties if your pediatrician or preferred hospital is across a state line from your residence.
Your goal in choosing a pediatrician should be to find someone who will stay with your child from birth right up to adulthood. This helps the doctor track everything in your child’s history, making future diagnoses easier and helping determine the ideal course of treatment. The more research you do before choosing a doctor, the better your chances of creating a solid, long-term relationship with the person you choose.