Thought Leaders//

ASK THE EXPERT: A Stress-Free Guide to Finding Your Child’s Doctor

The four steps this leading NYC pediatrician recommends to get the best fit for your family.

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Getty Images

Becoming a parent is one of the most exciting times, but can also be on of the most stressful. There is an ever growing to-do list to get ready. You’ve decided on where you will deliver, gone to the parenting classes, picked out your nursery colors, decided on the name. So far everything is going well with your pregnancy, you feel great about checking off all of your to-do’s and then your obstetrician asks you, “Have you chosen a pediatrician?”  Silence. You’ve never even thought about it. Parents are so focused on the OB, they don’t realize they will need a pediatrician before the baby comes. 

At this point parents think, “maybe I’ll go to my pediatrician when I was a kid, but is he retired or outdated?”  Of course you can always ask your OB for recommendations they typically refer other patients to—you love your obstetrician, so why wouldn’t you love their recommendations?  However, it’s not that simple. You’ve taken the time, effort and ample researching to make every other decision, why wouldn’t you do the same when choosing a doctor for your child? 

With everything on your plate and an overload of information on the internet, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Here are the steps to find the best pediatrician for your family:

KNOW WHERE TO LOOK: Most people rely on “Dr. Google” for their information—which is a doctor’s worst nightmare, especially when it comes to researching medical information. The internet can be the Wild West of information, but if you know where to look, you can find a perfect fit for your family needs and values.  A great place to start is by looking at Yelp reviews,blogs and social media mom groups in your local area. The people who know the doctors best are those parents already seeing them. Reach out to your networks and ask who they like, and who they don’t. Before you know it, you’ll have a peer recommended list to get you started. 

SET UP INTERVIEWS: Take your list which may include your obstetrician’s recommendation, your friends pediatrician, your old but possibly retired doc and a bunch of social media peer group recommendations, and start setting up appointments. Most pediatric practices will accomodate free consultations to allow you to properly meet and decide on your future pediatrician. Those consultations will allow you to reach your own conclusions, after interviewing all these recommended pediatricians for yourself. 

INSPECT THE LOCATION: When choosing a doctor, it’s not just about the person, but about the facility as well. You want to check out the place and make sure it’s clean. No matter how good the reviews are, you still want to ensure that you or your child won’t be left susceptible to catching a communicable disease just walking into the office. Whether the office is new or old, cleanliness should be a top priority. Look out for are dirty floors, blood stains, and old and exposed needles hanging about. All red flags. Only when you’ve confirmed the place is spotless and sterile is it time to actually meet your doctor. 

PREPARE FOR YOUR INTERVIEW: Keep in mind,that unlike a first date, this experience may not be one of love at first sight. Being a pediatrician, I’m asked a lot of questions during the interview with a prospective patient and I always like to answer them with a big smile. At the end of the day, these are new parents who have no idea what to expect and want to be as prepared as possible. Think about the type of personality you want—the professional and to-the-point doc or your smart, quirky personable pediatrician. Some things to ask could be: what school they graduated from, the status of their board certification, what vaccine schedules look like and what insurances they accept. You want to make this interview worth your while and allow for it to inform your decisions when it comes to your child’s doctor  and future health

In my opinion, there are 3 important questions you should ask: 

  1. How many physicians are there in the practice and are you going to be seeing all of them? In a large practice, you’ll likely be seeing a different doctor during each new visit in which means  a loss of continuity, which is very important in establishing rapport with your child’s pediatrician. Although it might be okay to see another physician during an emergent visit you should try and see the same doctor for your well visits
  2. How easy is it to schedule a sick appointment? You want a practice that cares and will cater to your child even if the office is about to close. As easy as it might be to schedule a well visit, you really cannot predict when your child is going to be ill. Having a practice that accepts same day sick appointments is valuable. The only downfall might be sometimes creating a delay in other patients scheduled well visit appointments, but sooner or later (hopefully a lot later) your child might get sick and you’ll definitely appreciate that service. I had a patient in my practice complain whenever he had to wait at an appointment.. Despite my best efforts to explain the reason, he could not understand. That was until his infant had a 104F temperature and was squeezed in without an appointment. He never complained again..
  3. What happens if my child is sick after hours or on weekends? You want to hear that someone is always on call, preferably one of the physicians, even if it’s 3 am, to answer your emergency questions. No on-call services means going to the ER every time your child is sick.

In the end, you’re looking for a doctor that will seek to answer all your questions, explain things thoroughly, and work to build a partnership with you as a parent. It is most important to remember you are the one raising your child, but your doctor should be someone that shares similar views and can successfully help to guide you through the process. 

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