Whether you’re expecting, moving to a new location, or just looking to switch physicians, choosing a pediatrician for your child is an important decision. As a parent, your goal is to find a physician or practice that will provide consistent, comprehensive care that grows with your child. You also want to ensure that you and your child are comfortable in the doctor’s presence. Keep that balance in mind during your search: the pediatrician who’s a great fit for one family may not be for another. And that’s okay.
Friends and Family
Asking the people you trust for their opinions and referrals is a surefire way to find a good match. Be sure to ask questions like:
- Do they make an effort to get you in right away when your child is sick?
- How long are wait times?
- Do you feel rushed during appointments?
Your friends and family can provide you with a wealth of reliable knowledge based on actual experience with a particular doctor.
Ask Your Ob-Gyn
If you are pregnant and searching for a doctor, your obstetrician is a great source for pediatrician recommendations. They are generally already familiar with local doctors and often hear feedback from other moms.
Call (and Visit) the Practice
Once you’ve whittled down your list of potential pediatricians, make a list of questions and call each office.
- Does the practice participate in your insurance network?
- Will your child see the same pediatrician at each visit, or will you see whichever doctor is on staff?
- What are their office hours?
- Is the practice connected to a local hospital?
- How does the practice handle after-hours emergencies?
- Are there any billing, cancellation, or other practices policies you should be aware of?
- What is a typical wait time?
If you’re still comfortable after you’ve spoken with the receptionist, nurse, or office staff, make an appointment for a prenatal appointment (or interview). While you’re there, make sure you take a look at the waiting room. Are there toys for children? Hand sanitizer? Books? Magazines? Does it look like a clean, well-lit environment where you’d be comfortable waiting for your child’s appointments? These details may seem superficial, but your comfort level impacts your disposition toward the pediatrician.
Your visit will allow you to personally converse with the pediatrician. You may want to express any strong opinions you have about common practices (e.g., breastfeeding or vaccination) to see how the pediatrician reacts. Trust your gut. If your personality meshes well with the pediatrician, chances are good that you’ll both be on the same page when it comes to your child’s care.
If you’re looking for a pediatrician who goes above and beyond the requirements of his or her license, check for the following:
- Board certification
- AAP membership
Pediatricians who are board certified have passed difficult exams that must be taken on a routine basis to maintain certification. In the United States the AAP, or American Academy of Pediatrics, is a medical society that holds members to specific guidelines and standards. Both board certification and AAP membership provide you with third-party verifications of a pediatrician’s skills.
You can use also go to the American Board of Medical Specialties to look for pediatricians with specialized training. This is especially helpful if you have a child with any special medical needs or concerns.
Use Social Media
Many hospitals and practices use social media to keep in touch with or educate their patients. Take a look at your potential pediatrician’s Facebook page, website, or Twitter account, paying close attention to both negative and positive comments. Does the practice respond effectively to complaints? Is there a preponderance of bad comments? You may be able to find doctor reviews on online rating sites or on your insurance provider’s website. These reviews can be helpful, especially if they shed light on office practices, physician demeanor, and location. However, it’s important to remember that reviews detailing poor outcomes do not necessarily correlate to poor care.