Your child’s doctor plays an essential role in their health and well-being, but finding the right one can be stressful. Picking a pediatrician is one of the most important decisions you’ll make as a parent. They’re the first doctor your child will see and the one with whom they’ll share a lot of history.
Every parent wants to know they’re making the best choice for their child’s future, and it’s crucial to make sure you’re completely comfortable with your new pediatrician. To help you decide, here are seven things to know before choosing a doctor for your child.
Where Is the Office Located?
Children, especially babies, have more frequent routine checkups than adults, so you’ll be driving to your pediatrician’s office regularly. Is it close to your home, work, day care or kid’s school? When you need to head to the doctor’s office, where will you typically be coming from? Also, if you rely on public transportation, is the office located near a stop, or will you have to walk a long distance with your possibly sick kid?
Is the Doctor Recommended?
When you’re looking for a doctor you can trust with your children’s health, start by asking around for recommendations from friends and family. See what pediatricians other parents in your circle are using and their opinions.
You can also check out reviews on the office’s website or a third-party site. Look for commonalities and see if you can spot some things that make you feel hesitant or eager. If this is a pediatrician you’re interested in, prepare some questions for them based on what you’ve read and heard.
What Are Their Credentials?
First off, you’ll need to decide if you want a licensed pediatrician or if you’ll use a general practitioner. This choice may come down to availability — especially in rural areas, pediatricians are harder to come by.
If you have pediatricians near you and want to go that route, look into their certifications, special interests and experience. All pediatricians have gone through medical school, residency and state licensure, but not all go on to the optional next step — becoming board certified.
You could also ask where they did their residency and what the program was like. If your child has any particular conditions, you should also see if they have experience with it and feel comfortable creating or maintaining a treatment plan.
What Services Do They Provide?
You may not want to think of this now, but you should ask what services the pediatrician’s office provides. If your child gets sick and needs imaging or bloodwork, can they do that right there, or will you be sent elsewhere?
You could also ask about long-term care in case your child needs rehabilitation or round-the-clock medical attention. Is that a service they offer, or are they affiliated with centers that do? It probably hurts to consider these extreme scenarios, but asking these questions now can save you headaches down the road.
Is the Doctor Available?
When you have a sick kid, you want to be able to get them care as soon as possible. Check on the typical wait time to get appointments with each pediatrician. Can you get in the next day, or are they booked a week out?
Also, ask about availability outside of typical office visits. Does the doctor offer telehealth visits and communication? Are they open to texts or phone calls on the weekend? Is anyone in the office to answer calls on the weekend in case of an emergency? If any of these things are important to you, check with the pediatrician to see if your priorities match up.
Do They Accept Your Insurance?
Always check with the office or your insurance company before deciding on a pediatrician. Medical costs add up quickly, especially for children, since they require so many routine checkups as well as sick visits.
If you forget to verify that they accept your insurance, you might receive a shockingly high bill after your first visit. You should also check with your employer or insurance company to see what services your policy covers and how much you can expect to pay out of pocket for them.
Do the Doctor and Office Feel Like a Good Fit?
The best way to test out a doctor for your child is to take them for a test run. Most offices will offer an intake appointment at little or no cost to you. This allows you to get acquainted with the doctor and how they operate before you commit financially.
During your appointment, watch how the doctor interacts with your child and vice versa — that relationship is very important. Come prepared with questions, so you can get answers and also to see how well the doctor interacts with parents. Lastly, check out the general atmosphere of the office. Do you feel comfortable and safe? Is the staff friendly? Are there other doctors your child might see if yours isn’t available?
Go With Your Gut
Once you’ve compiled all of your research and gone on a test run or two, you probably have all you need to make a decision. In fact, you’ll likely have a gut reaction one way or another — trust it. You and your child will be spending a lot of time with this doctor, so it needs to feel right.