On Monday, I discussed the tendency to overmedicate children. Part of that danger can be prevented by choosing a good physician for your family.
Every doctor is different, just like every family is different. You’ll know if you have a good fit or not – if you and your child’s doctor have opposing philosophical views on medicine, you will never be fully satisfied with the care, no matter how good it may be.
Find a doctor you’ll agree with on approaches to treatment, like vaccine policies, as well as if he or she welcomes questions. Every parent wants a different level of involvement with physicians. While some parents scrutinize every part of their child’s medical journey, others leave everything up to the pediatrician’s discretion. Doctors are the same way, too – some truly want parents weighing in on the child’s healthcare, while other physicians demand complete trust.
Finding the right physician
Finding a satisfying match is difficult, but here are a few questions to help you find the right physician for your children:
- First, decide if you’d prefer a pediatrician or family practitioner. Both care for infants, but a pediatrician specializes in children while a family practitioner has a larger scope of patients.
- Next, think about your preference for a solo practitioner or a group practice. At a solo practice, you’re assured you will always see your own doctor. However, you will have to wait for an appointment – regardless if your child is well or sick – depending on the doctor’s availability. At a group practice, you don’t have to worry about waiting to see a doctor – someone should always be available to see your child. Many group practices also have physicians on call who will return calls at night or on weekends. And really, isn’t that when children always seem to get sick?
- Once you’ve thought about those issues, ask for referrals – check with your friends, family members, co-workers, and neighbors. If you’re pregnant, ask your obstetrician or midwife.
- Check out the American Academy of Pediatrics’ interactive Web tool, “Find a Pediatrician.”
- While you’re narrowing your search, check if your potential doctors are covered under your health insurance. If so, make sure they’re accepting new patients.
Research is key
Now it’s time for a little research. Either with the help of a website or phone call, get some information. Most of these questions can be answered within just a few minutes:
- Is the doctor board certified by the American Board of Pediatrics?
- Where is the office located?
- What are the office hours?
- Are same-day appointments possible?
- What is the policy on phone calls – do you get stuck in voice mail, or do you speak to a live person?
- At what hospitals does the doctor have privileges?
- Does the office have one waiting room for all patients, or separate well child and sick child waiting rooms?
- What is the doctor’s philosophy on vaccines – are they completely necessary on the CDC’s timeline, or would a more relaxed approach be possible?
If you still need more information, schedule an interview with the doctor and ask whatever questions are still unanswered. And keep in mind that once you make your doctor decision, it’s not permanent – you can change physicians at any time.
From personal experience, I know that finding the right doctor for your family can take much trial and error.
When I was pregnant with our first child, I chose a pediatrician based on one friend’s recommendation and the office location – but less than a week after our son was born, I changed doctors.
I called our second group of doctors – referred by my obstetrician – and asked many questions on the phone. Pleased with the answers, we went to the group of pediatricians for two years until moving away. I discovered, though, that I gravitated toward some of the physicians in the group and did not agree with others.
Once we moved, I asked for recommendations, called several offices, did some online research and finally found a perfect fit – a pediatrician who practices integrative medical care in a solo practice. She blends Western medicine with complementary treatments like supplements to provide a holistic approach. While our physician would not be ideal for every family, she’s perfect for us.
What about you? Do you have any stories – good or bad – to share of your family’s experience with doctors?
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