Choosing Wisely

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Choosing the right doctor for your baby is an important decision; you’ll be visiting the doctor’s office six times in the first year for routine well-baby visits alone.  It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the choice, but with a little homework, you should be able to find one you like and can trust.

Pediatricians specialize in the care of children.  Focusing on children’s health and practicing with kids each day gives pediatricians a leg up when it comes to expertise on children’s medical issues.

Where can I get names of doctors to consider?

Your obstetrician can provide a recommendation.  Hospitals, insurance companies, and of course friends and family are always good sources.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers referrals to certified practitioners on its website.  Certification by the AAP means that the doctor has graduated from an accredited medical school, completed an accredited residency program, and passed the board exam in pediatrics.

People look for different things in doctors, and what’s most important for you may not even be on someone else’s radar.  So rather than just gathering a list of names, try asking some probing questions of whomever makes the recommendation, such as:

  • How does your child respond to the doctor?
  • Does the doctor seem to enjoy working with children?
  • Does the doctor seem to know about the latest medical advances?
  • Does the doctor welcome questions?
  • Does the doctor take time to discuss problems and listen to your concerns?
  • If it’s a group practice, do you know and like the other doctors?
  • How long do you usually have to wait?
  • Is there anything you don’t like or wish were different about your child’s doctor or her practice?

The answers you get can help narrow your list to the handful of doctors you’d like to meet in person.

I have some promising candidates. Now what should I do?

Before going a step further, make sure all the doctors you’re considering are taking on new patients and will accept your health insurance.  And although this might seem unnecessarily cautious, it’s wise to check with your state medical board to find out whether any doctor you’re interested in has been disciplined for wrongdoing.

Next, look over your list and note which doctors have convenient locations and office hours.  The best doctor in the city can lose its appeal if the office is hard to get to (imagine driving at rush hour with a sick and miserable child).