20 questions to choose the right pediatrician

December 13, 2013 12:00 AM by

Let’s Play 20 Questions

When looking for the right pediatrician, this interview will help you narrow the field.

You have almost as many options for your child’s pediatrician as you do at a Chinese restaurant.While the choice of a provider is a heck of a lot more important than the choice between lo mein and kung pao, the principle is the same: You are making a choice based on your preferences.

Here’s just one example of why we think who and when you choose are important.  Most hospitals give hepatitis B vaccines to newborns.We YOU docs don’t think it’s necessary to expose your child to this vaccine at birth if you are in a low-risk group.  In fact, neither of us had our kids vaccinated for hep B at birth. So if you want to delay immunization of your child to 2 months of age, the time to make sure you and your partner are low risk is not during the delivery process.  Discuss this issue with your pediatrician at least a month before your due date.  That’s the main reason to choose your pediatrician sooner rather than later.

Above all, the most important thing is to seek out someone who shares your priorities on the care of your child.  You want a relationship built on trust and support, not second-guessing.  Instead of pushing your desires on a provider, find one who already shares your basic philosophies.After all, if you really like Chinese food, it doesn’t make any sense to ask an Italian chef to cook up some moo goo gai pan.

Finding the one

This is a biggie.  After all, here’s the doc who’s going to answer your questions about feeding, take your frantic nighttime calls, look at busted lips, and be there whenever things don’t seem quite right.  As with choosing an obstetrician or midwife, you want to find a pediatrician who shares your basic attitude on health care.  Some pediatricians are extremely aggressive and high tech, wanting to intervene and treat any and every symptom.Others are less alarmist and have a more watch-and-wait approach.Some are open to complementary or holistic medicine, others are not.  Some are willing to modify the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) vaccination schedule; others insist on following it to the letter.

Keep your antennae up: If you feel rushed or that the doc is preoccupied during the interview, the same may be true during your visits.  The most important thing is to connect with him or her on a personal level.  After all, you’ll be trusting this person to care for your precious child.

The interview

Here are some questions to ask—first to learn your own needs, and then to find out from or observe the doc or office staff directly.

1 Is the doctor board certified?

2 What is the doc’s education, training, and experience?  How long has he or she been in practice?

3 Is the office conveniently located?

4 What hospital(s) is the doc affiliated with?

5 Does the doctor accept your insurance?  Does the hospital(s)?

6 Is the doc a solo practitioner? If so, who covers on evenings and weekends or when the doctor is away?

7 Is the doctor part of a health group?  If so, will you visit your doctor exclusively, or will you see whoever is available (including, perhaps, a nurse practitioner)?

8 Does the doc have early morning, evening, and weekend hours to accommodate working parents?

9 Does the doc encourage email communication?

10 How long can you expect to wait for a response when you email or phone with a question?

11 How long is the response time for after-hours questions?

12 Is the office clean and comfortable, and does it have a separate sick-child waiting area?  13Is the staff friendly?

14What is the doctor’s attitude toward breastfeeding vs. bottlefeeding, as well as a delayed vaccination schedule?  Is it in sync with yours?

15 How does the doc treat ear infections?  This is a good litmus test for how interventionist he or she may be.  Some dispense antibiotics liberally; others encourage you to watch and wait, as most ear infections resolve themselves within three days.

16 Do you and the doctor share similar views about parenting issues such as co-sleeping, pacifiers, and circumcision?

17 Are the doctor’s feelings about complementary medicine in sync with yours?

18 Does the doc have a standard protocol for vaccinations? How flexible is he or she about the timing of vaccinations and the administration of optional vaccinations?

19 Does the pediatrician’s office keep electronic medical records so that when Junior graduates from high school, his records are complete?

20 Is the doctor pleasant and friendly?  Do you like the doctor’s bedside manner?

Michael Roizen, M.D., is a professor of internal medicine and of anesthesiology, chief wellness officer, and chair of The Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute.

Mehmet Oz, M.D., is a professor, vice chairman of surgery, and director of the Cardiovascular Institute at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center.  Check your local listings for The Dr. Oz Show!

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