For new parents and parents-to-be, there are so many important decisions that need to be made, including which pediatrician your kids will see throughout their childhood. Whether you’re a first-time parent searching for a pediatrician for your new family, or your kids have had a pediatrician in the past but you’re looking for a new one, our staff at Children’s Wellness Center has some tips to help you jump-start the process.
Look for a “Medical Home” for Your Kids
There are many reasons why a family may need to change pediatricians, like a move, a retirement, etc. Ideally, though, you want your kids to have the same pediatrician throughout their lives. This is what we call a “medical home” – a pediatric office that has all your kids’ histories, knows them well, and serves as your go-to when you have any medical concerns for your kids. This is why it’s so important to take your time and truly get to know a pediatrician before choosing them – because you want them to be with you for the long haul.
How to Get Started
You essentially want to start by assembling a large list of all the potential options. In a populated area like metro Atlanta, this can seem overwhelming, so here are a few sources where you can start:
- If you have health insurance or another type of managed care plan, your insurance/managed care provider should have a list of all the in-network or approved pediatricians in your area. Many providers have directories on their websites, so this can be a convenient place to start. Keep in mind, however, that these directories change often and can have errors, so if you’re looking for a certain provider, it’s best to call the provider to check whether they accept your insurance.
- Ask for recommendations from your obstetrician, your own general physician, and other parents you trust.
- Visit the American Academy of Pediatrics’ website. They offer a directory that lists all the board-certified pediatricians in your area.
- Contact nearby medical centers or hospitals and ask for lists of the local pediatricians. Specifically, if there is a certain hospital where you’re very comfortable, you can ask for a list of the pediatricians that are affiliated with the hospital.
Criteria to Look For in a Pediatrician
Once you have a comprehensive list of all your options, it’s time to start narrowing them down. Create a checklist of all your desired criteria and find out how many of the pediatricians meet all or most of your checkpoints. Here are a few that you should always have on your list:
- Board-certified by the American Board of Pediatrics
- Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics
- Admitting rights for local hospitals (so that the doctor can admit your child to the hospital if a kids health emergency arises)
- Office location (Is the office conveniently accessible to you? If you don’t have a car, can the office be reached by public transportation?)
- Office hours (Are the hours manageable with your family’s schedule?)
- Practice format (Many parents prefer group practices because there are likely to be other trusted pediatricians who can help you if your doctor is unavailable. However, make sure that the practice understands the importance of seeing your specific pediatrician whenever possible. For instance, at Children’s Wellness Center, we prioritize our schedule so that patients are always placed with their same consistent provider unless there is a significant scheduling issue or the need for an urgent appointment while the patient’s usual pediatrician isn’t available.)
These criteria (most of which you should be able to find online to make the process easier) can help you narrow your list down to a select few pediatricians.
Interview Questions to Ask
Once you have your “short list,” it’s a good idea to set up interviews with these pediatricians so you can meet them, get a feel for their personality and their office staff, understand the pediatric practice philosophy, and see if they would be a good fit for your family. It may be more convenient to do the interview itself by phone, but it’s a good idea to also pay the office a brief visit at some point as well. For example, at Children’s Wellness Center, we have several Meet & Greets every month with our providers. Held in the evening for your convenience, these relaxed sessions are the perfect opportunity for parents to come in, meet our providers, see our office, and get a sense of our practice personality.
Regardless of how you choose to interview your potential pediatricians, you’ll want to customize the questions based on what exactly your needs and goals are, but here are a few ideas to get you started:
- How does the practice handle visits for acute illnesses? In other words, can you get an appointment on short notice if an illness like the flu arises? At Children’s Wellness Center, for instance, we are almost always able to accommodate same-day visits for sick kids.
- How available is the doctor if you need to call with questions about your kids?
- What hospital does the pediatrician typically use when necessary?
- What happens if you have a concern after-hours or on the weekend?
- What are the costs for typical visits, vaccines, etc.? If you don’t have insurance, how are payments handled?
As a parent, you already have too much to worry about – you shouldn’t be concerned about second-guessing your pediatrician, too. Taking the time to do a thorough search for the right pediatrician from the start can give you invaluable peace of mind knowing that your child’s health is in good hands. To find out if Children’s Wellness Center may be the right medical home for your kids, schedule a pediatrician appointment or give us a call with any questions you may have.