You’re expecting! Your to-dos are many, and at the top of that list needs to be finding a pediatrician for your family’s new addition. Here’s what to consider.
First, says pediatrician Bridget McArdle, D.O., of Henry Ford Health System’s Sterling Heights location, turn to your innermost circle.
“Seek out your friends with kids,” she suggests. “Who do they take their kids to see? Do they like them? Get an idea of who they’d recommend.”
No dice? Ask your OB-GYN or get referrals from your insurance provider.
“Make sure any potential physicians are covered under your insurance plan,” McArdle says. “You don’t want to get there and discover they’re not.”
Once you have a short list, says Brian Berman, M.D., the chief pediatrician at Beaumont Children’s, verify those physicians are certified by The American Board of Pediatrics (ABP) or board eligible. Visit the ABP website to enter a physician’s name and easily verify this.
“Among other things, it implies his or her training program was certified.”‘
Certification is an ongoing commitment on the part of pediatricians to expand their knowledge in the specialty and show how they can apply quality care, ABP notes.
Next: meet and greet.
“These types of appointments are standard nowadays,” says McArdle.
Berman suggests having these meetings with two to three candidates.
“They typically last 20 to 30 minutes,” he says. “It’s a chance to feel out the chemistry. Are you comfortable? Do you feel relaxed? Can you raise sensitive issues? It’s one of those things where you know it when you feel it. Bring your spouse with you to that visit. It helps with relationship building.”
In advance, McArdle urges parents to think about what’s key to them, so they know what to ask.
“Think about hot topics like breast-feeding,” she says. “Also, do you plan to circumcise? You want a doctor who supports you.”
Consider accessibility too, she adds.”How often is your doctor in the office? Are you OK with that? Find out what days they work and coverage for the days they don’t.”
Some practices offer walk-in clinics for sick kids; some don’t. “It’s routine for practices to offer same-day appointments,” but check, Berman says.
Another factor is a “nurse line.” This is a number you can call to reach a nurse who is part of the practice or health system. He/she can help you determine whether you should bring your child in.
“Sometimes parents are more comfortable and less reluctant to call the nurse,” Berman says. McArdle says Henry Ford Health System’s nurse on-call is available to patients even at odd hours.
Many pediatric practices also have a “medical home” designation.
“This is issued by Blue Cross Blue Shield,” Berman says. “It means a practice has met a variety of criteria relative to quality and accessibility. It’s a good mark awarded by an outside organization.”
Berman also suggests parents ask about the physician’s network of specialty referral resources as well as hospital resources.
“Does he or she have links to reputable medical centers that address subspecialties or more complex pediatric problems? It’s nice to know your doctor has a network.”
See if the practice has electronic medical records.
“This allows parents to see their child’s records, labs, growth curves and immunization schedule online,” McArdle says. “Similarly, some pediatricians are open to email communication. Ask.”
During prenatal visits, inquire if a physician from the practice will see baby while still in the hospital. While this has traditionally been commonplace, it is becoming less so.
“Many very good practices and doctors, by virtue of logistics, have deferred to hospitalists,” Dr. Berman says. These physicians specialize in patient care and aren’t necessarily part of the practice.
While less important with babies and toddlers, some kids are more comfortable with physicians of the same sex. This can become more salient in a child’s teen years, McArdle notes. “You may want to seek out a practice that has a mix of female and male physicians,” she says.
This post was originally published in 2015 and has been updated for 2017.