Finding a good family doctor or pediatrician is an incredibly important part of parenting. Your child’s health and possibly, his life could depend upon the expertise of the provider that you choose.
After my husband retired from the military, we had to find civilian insurance. Because of some odd regulation, he was not eligible for health care benefits until after he was 60 due to the amount of active duty years he had served even though he had enough years completed to retire. This meant that after years of getting our care at the local military facility, we now had to find a civilian doctor to care for our family.
I found that the emergency care center across the street had a family practice associated with their center. It seemed like a wise idea to see the family doctorfor health care because our entire family could see this one person. The office was close, and there was an emergency care option should one of the kids fall or do something that children do which entails an emergency room visit. Since my youngest child was very healthy, I really did not think any more about the health care subject.
Last winter, our son developed pneumonia and became very, very ill. I found out during this time that the doctor on staff had very little experience with children and that she was very uncomfortable doctoring children who were extremely ill. In addition, the office had very little supplies on hand for a pediatric emergency. After a visit where she assured me that my son was sick but that nothing was really wrong with him, I drove him to the nearest emergency room where he was admitted to the hospital. During his stay I found another doctor for all of the children and I have never been happier with their care.
When you are looking for a doctor for your children, it is important to consider a variety of factors. It’s best to do these things before you have a crisis on your hands as well!
Don’t Let Distance Determine Your Choice
Gas prices continue to climb and we are all trying to economize. However, distance should not be the only factor which determines the doctor you ultimately choose to provide care for your family. Decide how far you are willing to travel to get regular, quality care for your children. Keep in mind that you are looking for overall care, not a specialist. You may have to drive farther to get specialty care, but you will not be “visiting” a specialist on a regular basis. Hopefully not anyway.
Remember that if you are looking for a quality specialist, it may be necessary to drive several hours to find that perfect fit for your situation. When we lived in Pennsylvania, the local doctors had very little experience with the rare eye condition my two oldest children have developed. It was necessary to drive over 2 hours to Philadelphia to find a great specialist who had experience treating children with degenerative eye diseases.
Ask For Feedback
When looking for a new doctor, it is important to ask for feedback from your friends and family. Find out where they take their children or grandchildren for health care and ask for their opinions and recommendations. Many communities have doctor referral services as well, which may or may not be helpful.
Another way to find a doctor is through Internet groups. When we moved to to Virginia, I joined a group for mothers new to our area. I posted my question on the group board and got many replies back. Although many of the doctors that were recommended by the group were no longer taking new patients and therefore weren’t even an option, I did narrow down my search to 5 candidates using this method.
Know Your Health Care Plan
It is crucial to know all the intricacies of your health plan. I would recommend calling the customer service number listed on your insurance card to ask your questions instead of reading through the literature to find answers. Speaking to a “real” person can help to clarify any questions you may have and frankly, sometimes it is hard to understand all the clauses and other things that the health booklets contain.
Another very important thing to know is that you can’t always ensure that a particular doctor is still participating with a particular health plan. ALWAYS double check this! It will save numerous headaches down the line when you receive a bill for services you thought would be covered. Be proactive and never assume anything just because it is in writing. Always double check to avoid nasty surprises later on down the road.
Consider Personality Styles
It may sound frivolous, but do you like your child’s doctor? Do you find his or her personality abrasive? Does the doctor have respect for you as a parent? These are all very important things to consider.
Other things to consider: is this doctor always running several hours behind? Conversely, do you feel that you are being rushed out the door in order for the pediatrician to maintain his tight schedule?
On time, I had a pediatrician that I liked very much. However, she was always running several hours behind. I knew that I could expect to wait at least 2 hours in her waiting room and so I put off doctor appointments until I absolutely had no choice but to take my sick child. If you find that you are avoiding taking your child to the doctor, it is time to make a switch.
Consider Convenience And Care Quality
I like to choose practices with more than one physician on staff. I also look to see if they have nurses on call and if they have nurse practitioners in addition to physicians on staff. I also check to see their “after hours” care policy and I look to see if they have extended office hours just in case.
Another thing that is important to look for is the quality of care. For example, are the office staff courteous and helpful in resolving billing issues? Do feel welcome when you step into the office or do you feel as if you are just an inconvenience to them? These are important things to notice as well.
Right now, my 5 children are cared for by a pediatric practice that is quite close to our house. The office also has another branch that is close by where I have scheduled appointments if the primary office is booked solid.
The practice has both male and female doctors on staff(my older daughters are becoming self conscious and prefer the female staff members) as well as several nurse practitioners. Two of the doctors on staff have children with autism and have experienced first hand what my life is like some days.
During the morning before regular hours begin, the office has a walk in clinic where you can arrive to have a sick child seen without an appointment. Also during these hours, a nurse is available to administer immunizations with or without an appointment.
After hours care is available for an additional fee if you wish for your child to be seen by a doctor instead of taking him to the hospital emergency room. In addition, you can call to discuss your child’s illness over the phone with a nurse at any time for free. When my son was so very ill after he had been discharged from the hospital, the nurse called several times a day to check up on him to determine exactly how he was doing and if follow up care was needed.
The office staff has been courteous for the most part and a billing issue that I had experienced was solved relatively painlessly in a timely manner.
Are you happy with your child’s current health care provider? If not, use these tips and start looking for the perfect doctor for your child.