Choosing a pediatrician or family doctor can seem like a daunting task at first – especially for a new parent. It’s important to remember that not every pediatrician or office will be the right fit for every family. Just because your sister or best friend loves their pediatrician doesn’t mean it is the right pediatrician for your family. It’s a great idea to start by getting recommendations from friends and family, but then think about what is most important to your family. Some important factors to consider include:
Location: Consider the location of the practice in relation to where you live and work. If your pediatrician’s office is not a convenient drive you will likely find yourself using the local ER or Urgent Care rather than seeing the doctor you picked for your family.
Associated Hospitals/ Health Systems: Find out if your doctor’s office is affiliated with local hospitals or health care systems. If you have older children who see subspecialists you may prefer a pediatric group within the same network. In the St. Louis area, for instance, there are three major health systems for children. If using a certain hospital or system is important to you or required by your insurance you will likely want to choose a pediatrician who is associated with the same system or who will refer to specialists of your choice.
Access/Hours: What days and times is the clinic open? Are there Saturday or evening hours? You may wish find a clinic with extended hours if your job will make it difficult for you to make weekday appointments. Also, ask how easy it is to get in for same day ill appointments. Some clinics hold a certain number of appointments every day so sick children can be seen promptly.
X-ray/Lab access: Does the clinic have lab or X-ray services on site? It can be really convenient to have everything available at one site; however, most pediatric clinics have limited ability to offer this in the office. Many clinics have preferred off site lab or imaging location for their patients. You may want to ask how close these services are to the clinic and how fast the results will be transmitted to your pediatrician for review.
Communication: Find out how quickly you will hear from your physician regarding test results. Will these results be conveyed by mail or telephone and will you speak with your physician or other support staff. Who should you call for questions after hours? Does the clinic have a nurse line or other support after hours?
Practice style: Finally, consider the practice style of the physician you are considering. Some parents wish to have very open ended conversations with their pediatrician and would like to be a part of the healthcare decision making process. Other parents prefer a pediatrician who will give concrete answers and a very specific treatment plan with little or no input from the parent. Both types of pediatricians can provide excellent health care – it is just a matter of finding a communication style that works for your family.
What if you picked the wrong practice or physician? You should feel comfortable letting your office know if you will be switching locations or if you would like to meet another provider in the practice. Pediatricians also enjoy having a positive interaction with their patients and picking a provider that is a good fit for your family will make everyone happier!