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Do's and Don'ts at your Pediatrician's Office

How to make the most of your visits to your Pediatrician


Updated November 19, 2003

In most cases, Pediatricians and their families have a good relationship. Sometimes, though, issues do come up, either with the office staff, the doctor or with the family.

Among the biggest controversies are those that deal with insurance. Parents get very upset when they charged for something that they think their insurance should cover, and Pediatricians do too when they don't get paid. The easiest way to avoid these problems is to call your insurance company and verify your benefits. Among the things you should check are if well child checkups are covered, if they pay for vaccines, and where you can have lab tests done. Shouldn't you Pediatrician's office do that for you? In most cases, your doctor's office will not have the resources to spend 10-20 minutes verifying the insurance benefits for each patient.

You might also bring a list of laboratories you can go to if your insurance company restricts where you can go for tests and what specialists you can be referred to if you anticipate that your child will need to see a specialist. If you have a prescription drug card, you might also bring the drug formulary or a list of preferred drugs to your office visit. Each insurance company seems to have their own list of medications that they prefer and which they pay for, decreasing your own out of pocket expenses.

You should also be sure to update the office staff and your records if your insurance coverage has changed.

The other big problem that parents complain of is how long they have to wait for their appointment. I'm sure most offices try to run on time and minimize the amount of time that people have to wait in the waiting room or an exam room, but there are things that can happen to get a doctor off schedule.

The biggest delay often occurs if the doctor is called to the hospital for an urgent problem, such as a delivery or emergency C-section. If the baby is sick, this can often take up 1-2 hours of a doctor's time and throw the office way off schedule. Other problems that can cause longer waits occur if a sick patient is seen in the office and it takes more time than usual to care for the child, or if they need to fit a sick child into the schedule. Most commonly though, doctors get off schedule when patients show up late for their appointments.

These problems should not occur very often though, and definitely not every visit, so if you find that you often have to wait very long to see the doctor, that might indicate a problem with the office and how they schedule appointments.

Other tips that help your visits to your Pediatrician's office go smoothly include:

  • calling a few days in advance if you need a refill on a medication, a referral to a specialist, immunization records, a school/camp form filled out or some other non-urgent request. Don't wait until the last minute when you need something done by the office.
  • showing up to your appointment on time. If it is your first visit, you might even want to show up 15-20 minutes early, as you will likely need to fill our forms with your contact/insurance information. People showing up late for their appointment is usually the main reason that offices get off schedule and other patients have to wait.
  • calling early when your child is sick and you need an appointment. In most offices, if you call first thing in the morning, you will likely be seen later that morning or in the early afternoon. If you wait until later in the day, you might not be seen until the end of the day.
  • consider scheduling your well child checkups in the summertime when the office will likely be less busy than it is during the winter. This may give you more time with the doctor and you will be less likely to have to wait for your appointment.
  • preparing a list of questions or issues that you would like to discuss with your Pediatrician during the visit. It is hard to remember everything you want to talk about, but getting all of your questions answered can prevent your having to call back or schedule another appointment.
  • asking questions if you don't understand or don't agree with what your doctor has said. A little bit of discussion about your concerns can help prevent misunderstandings and reassure you about what your Pediatrician thinks is going on.
  • finding someone to watch your other kids when you take your child to the doctor. This isn't always possible, but you will likely have a better visit if their aren't 2 or 3 extra kids running around the room.
  • providing the office with feedback about your visits. If you have a problem with someone in the office, let the office manager or doctor know. Even if you have a problem with the doctor, some feedback might help him or her do things differently.

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