Choosing Your Child’s Primary Care Physician

Choosing Your Child’s Primary Care Physician
by the experts at The Children’s Hospital – Denver

Children have different healthcare needs than adults — both medical and psychological. Some doctors have special training and experience in caring for infants, children and teenagers.

Do not wait until your child is sick or needs a checkup to choose a physician. If you are having a baby, recently moved, or are changing insurance, it is wise to choose your child’s primary care physician right away. For recommendations about different physicians you can ask other doctors you know, your friends, relatives and coworkers. Ask why they recommend or choose these doctors. Some questions you can ask them include:

  • Are all your questions answered clearly by your child’s doctor?
  • Do you think your children will like the doctor?
  • Does the doctor talk to your children and not just you?
  • Is the doctor familiar with current health-care issues and treatment advances for kids?
  • Is the office staff helpful and friendly?
  • Are telephone calls responded to promptly and adequately?
  • How does the office handle emergencies and services after hours?
  • Do you have to wait long for appointments?
  • Is there anything about the pediatrician or office that you wish you could change?

Once you have collected a list of names, you can set up times to meet with your prospective primary care physician to become better acquainted. If possible, both parents should participate in these interviews. Meeting in person can be very helpful. You are able to see the physician’s practice and become acquainted with some of the office staff. You are also able to learn about the doctor’s views and character. Does he or she seem like someone you feel comfortable with, and is he or she someone your child can grow up to trust and respect? Some physicians will not charge for these meetings or may schedule them at special times. We recommend that you call the office to ask about these and other concerns you might have. When you are in the physician’s office reception area ask yourself- Is it clean? Is the office staff friendly and helpful? Before meeting the doctor, find out some information from the office staff such as:

  • What are the office hours?
  • How is billing handled?
  • Is payment due at the time of service?
  • Which insurance plans do they work with?
  • How are insurance claims handled?

Here are some questions you might want to ask when you get to meet the doctor:

  • What is your background and experience caring for kids? Where did you receive your training?
  • How many children in your practice do you currently see and what is the age range? (This might be useful to know for doctors who are not pediatricians.)
  • How do you handle calls after hours and for emergencies? (It might be important for you to have a physician who has a good on-call system, such as working with local hospitals who have staff who are accessible and have experience in providing after hours care for infants and children.)
  • In which hospitals do you prefer to admit patients?
  • Do you provide services for minor questions? (Ask for examples.)
  • If you aren’t available, who will help me?
  • Are you board certified in a specialty?
  • To what professional organizations do you belong?
  • Is there anything you would like to know about me and my family?

These are some examples of the questions you might ask. Be prepared and make a list of all your questions. Above all trust your instincts. Is this someone you trust and like? Does the doctor and his staff listen, clearly answer questions and seem genuinely interested or concerned? Give yourself enough time to interview several doctors before choosing one for your child.

Editorial provided by the experts at The Children’s Hospital in Denver, Colorado.