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How to Find the Right Doctor for Your Kids

There’s so much going on in preparation for a new baby coming into the household; much planning, speculation and concern to occupy your time and the time of other family members. A vital person to add to your team even before the baby arrives is the pediatrician. Your child’s future doctor will be a partner from day one and you want to make sure you are both a good fit for one another.

The search should begin between midway through the pregnancy and no later than three months before the due date. Start with your health care plan; there may be a restriction on who you select to remain within the structure of the plan. A call to your health care provider can outline the applicable steps to using their doctor list, whether the list is up to date, etc. Once you know your parameters, you can take the available list and begin getting input from relatives, friends, neighbors, coworkers, even your own OB/GYN or midwife. Ask who they use or who they’ve heard about within their own circle of friends and family.

It’s important to remember, however, that just because a doctor worked well for your cousin, you may not share her parenting and health philosophies so the match may not be right for you. Knowing your own opinions - what you are flexible on, what you are not, knowing what you need more information on - will help this search as you move along to the interviewing phase.

Begin with a manageable number of doctors to investigate; five to seven who have been recommended and fall under your medical plan. Every state has a medical board which investigates complaints against doctors and issues disciplinary actions. In most places, this information is public and can be obtained from their websites or via written request.

Once your list is checked against those state lists, it’s time to take the process to the doctors themselves. Call the doctor’s office to ask if they are taking new patients and schedule a prenatal appointment. You’ll be able to get an idea about the office, the staff, and the doctor, and ask some pertinent questions. A list will keep you focused and keep you from forgetting something important.

When you discuss the possibility of using this new doctor for your unborn child, you should ask questions like:

  • What are the office hours?
  • Does the doctor work from more than one location (this will limit office hours at the location which may be closest to you)?
  • Is this a solo or group practice?
  • Will you be seeing a different doctor at each visit or have one doctor for primary contact?
  • Who covers for the doctor if it is a solo practice?
  • What is the after-hours procedure for calls, advice, and emergency care?
  • What hospital is the doctor affiliated with? Is it the one you’re planning on giving birth in?
  • Will he/she come to examine the baby at the hospital after delivery?
  • If circumcision is an issue (for or against), mention that to the doctor and ask about his/her feelings and policies about that, too.

You can ask the office staff about things such as payment policies and where lab tests are performed (make sure the lab they use is covered under your medical insurance). Check on their policies for referrals to specialists; is there a set of other doctors they have in place for recommendations?

While you’re at the office, make sure to jot down anything which strikes you, no matter how small. Unless a doctor hits it out of the park in compatibility and personality on the first meeting, you may have to work through your notes and weigh pros and cons before making a decision.

Once you’ve made your decision, phone the office to speak to the staff and doctor again. Let them know you’ve selected them and double check with regards to the procedure for the actual birth (who will contact them, when they’ll visit). Then take all your notes on all the doctors and save them. Doctors move and retire or change policies over time. Personality conflicts may arise. Decisions may change with regards to the course of child-rearing. It will be helpful to not have to start from scratch if you have to go pediatrician hunting again down the road.

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