Choosing the right pediatrician for your family is one of the most important things you’ll need to do before your baby arrives. Your chosen pediatrician will be the go-to medical professional you visit for regular check-ups and health emergencies, so it’s essential to select the right doctor for your family’s needs. Whether you have multiple children or will be a first-time parent, having a skilled and compassionate doctor in your corner to advocate for your newborn baby’s health can be crucial.
In this article, we offer some suggestions on how to select a pediatrician in your area. We hope that our tips help you pick an excellent doctor that is a cornerstone of your child’s healthy development for years to come.
Why Should You Find a Pediatrician?
You may be wondering why you’d need to find a pediatrician, in addition to whichever medical practitioner you usually see for any health-related concerns. A pediatrician is a type of doctor that specializes in understanding the emotional, social, and physical needs of children. They will be able to provide personalized, efficient care as your child grows from an infant to a young adult.
Especially given that newborns are unable to effectively communicate with the adults around them, it’s important to be able to visit a doctor that understands the health and developmental needs of an infant. A good pediatrician not only provides quality care for your child, but can also answer any questions you may have regarding their development and wellbeing.
How to Begin Your Research
To start with, you’ll want to get a good sense of how the logistics of a doctor’s office functions. You don’t want to choose a pediatrician, only to find out down the line that your insurance plan does not cover their services or that a standard visit is substantially more expensive than you anticipated. Take your time so that you thoroughly understand how a doctor’s office operates and won’t face any unpleasant surprises. Before making your decision, it’s a good idea to:
- Ask family members or friends with children that live in the area for recommendations.
- Confirm that a pediatrician is accepting new patients and in-network with your insurance provider. Even if an insurance representative or your plan’s website states that a pediatrician is in-network, you should always double check with the doctor’s office.
- Ask how an office handles billing. You should know how much a routine visit can cost and when you’ll be charged for services received.
- Consider the pros and cons of a particular doctor. Is their facility close to your home or place of employment? Do they offer accessible office hours? What happens if an emergency arises after hours or on a weekend? Is a pediatrician part of a medical group or do they practice alone? In the former case, which of their colleagues would care for your child if your primary doctor is not available? For the latter, where would you receive treatment if your primary doctor is sick or traveling?
- Review a doctor’s medical record. Do they have a troubling history of medical malpractice cases against them? Have they been disciplined by a hospital or medical group? Have previous patients or their family members complained about poor medical outcomes?
- Meet the pediatrician in person, so you can get a sense of their approach and personality. If the pediatrician practices as part of a medical group, you may also want to be introduced to any other doctor that may end up involved with your child’s care.
Choosing a new doctor can be a time-consuming and overwhelming process, so it’s certainly wise to begin researching well in advance of your family’s delivery date. In general, beginning your search at least three months before your child is due may be wise.
Reviewing a Doctor’s Experience & Credentials
After confirming that a physician is a good match for you and your family, you’ll want to learn as much about their experience and medical background as possible. Ideally, you’re going to want a pediatrician with years of experience treating children with a variety of developmental and health needs, so you can rest assured your baby will be in good hands.
It may be worth checking if a doctor is credentialed through the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP). The ABP describes board certification as a “voluntary process that goes beyond state medical licensing” and demonstrates a physician’s dedication to promoting excellent care for children.
You should be alert to any potential signs of trouble in your doctor’s medical history. In the U.S., it is not uncommon for a doctor to face a civil medical malpractice lawsuit. In some cases, a procedure or treatment may have a negative outcome through no fault of a doctor or hospital, but a lawsuit may nonetheless be filed. According to the American Medical Association (AMA), one-in-three doctors have been sued, so avoiding practitioners who have never faced legal actions may be more challenging than you might expect. However, a doctor with multiple previous lawsuits against them, a history of patient complaints, or past disciplinary actions should probably be avoided.
What to Do After Choosing Your Pediatrician
When you’ve chosen the pediatrician that feels right for your family, you and your loved ones are likely feeling relieved. It’s a great feeling to know that your newborn will be cared for properly. During your child’s first few doctor visits, you should certainly pay attention to how the pediatrician interacts with your infant. Your doctor will be an important component of your child’s life for many years, so it’s important to make sure they have a positive relationship.
Observe how your pediatrician handles your child and attempts to build trust with them. Especially with young children, interactions should always be gentle and positive. Pay attention to how the physician communicates as well. Although your infant will not be able to understand them for the first few years, you want a doctor that is responsive to questions and able to explain themselves clearly.
Finding a Pediatrician You Can Rely Upon
When it comes time to select a pediatrician for your child, you want to be sure you choose a doctor that you can see yourself visiting for years to come. In some cases, you may end up visiting the doctor more than a half-dozen times a year after your child is born, so it’s essential to pick a doctor you can trust and spend a decent amount of time around. We hope this article helps you find the perfect pediatrician for your family’s needs!