Some do almost nothing and simply choose the pediatrician on call in the hospital when their baby is born or pick a doctor randomly from a list in the phone book or their insurance directory.
Others do detailed research and conduct an interview asking their potential new pediatrician everything from where they went to medical school to what their scores were on their medical boards.
When choosing a pediatrician, you should likely avoid these extremes, make sure you 'like' your new doctor, and see if you agree on important parenting topics, such as breastfeeding, discipline, and not overusing antibiotics, etc.
The Importance of Choosing a PediatricianChoosing the right pediatrician is more important than most parents think. While you can simply change doctors if you don't like the first pediatrician you see, if your newborn or older child is truly sick, the first doctor you see could be making life changing decisions about your child. Or they could miss a potentially life threatening problem.
So even if you have a healthy newborn or an older child with a simple cold or ear infection, you should put some thought into who cares for him, just in case his medical problems are a little more serious than you think.
Pediatrician RecommendationsA common way for parents to choose a pediatrician is to get a recommendation from their friends or family members. This is probably one of the best ways, but when someone tells you that they love going to their pediatrician, be sure to ask why before you blindly follow them to the same office. Many parents have different needs and you may be really turned off by the reason that they like their doctor. For example, they might like that their pediatrician is really fast and they are in and out of the office quickly, while you might like someone who moves slower and spends more time during the visit, even if it means that you have to wait a little longer for your appointment. Or your friend might like that their pediatrician prescribes an antibiotic every time they walk into the office, whether or not they need one.
On the other hand, you might get a negative report on a pediatrician only to find that they don't like the doctor because he doesn't over-prescribe antibiotics, which is actually keeping to the guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
So always try to get the reason or explanation behind a recommendation to make sure you understand why someone likes or dislikes their pediatrician.
Your own doctor can also be a good source for a recommendation for a pediatrician, especially if you are having a new baby.
Practical MattersAlthough we like to think that things like cost and convenience should be secondary when making such an important decision, they can be very important when choosing a pediatrician. If the pediatrician you would like to see is not on your insurance plan or is an hour away, it may not be very practical to go to her office.
Important practical matters to consider when choosing a pediatrician, most of which you can ask the office staff, include:
- Is the pediatrician on your insurance plan? If you don't have insurance or have a high deductible, then be sure to ask how much each visit costs and maybe compare it to other pediatric offices in the area.
- Where are you located and do you have a satellite office?
- Do you offer same day sick appointments?
- Do you have any late or weekend hours?
- What happens if I need advice after hours? Is a doctor available on-call to talk to me?
- What hospitals is the pediatrician affiliated with? This is especially important if you have a Children's Hospital in your area and you would like a doctor that will see you if you have to go there.
- Are there any extra charges for advice calls during the day, after hours advice calls, refilling medicines, or requests to fill out forms, etc.?
- How many doctors are in the office? Will I always see my own doctor?
- Are the doctors all board certified?
- How long is a typical appointment?
- Are there separate sick and well waiting rooms?
In a group practice, you usually see your own pediatrician when they are in the office, and have the benefit of seeing another doctor if they are out. Larger offices often have the benefit of sharing expenses and may have more equipment in the office, such as a lab, so that you don't have to go somewhere else to get blood work done.