How to Choose Your Pediatrician and Family Doctor

family doctor

Whether you’re a first-time mom looking for a pediatrician or a family headed for a new city, finding a doctor can be frustrating. Where should you start? How will you know when you’ve found “the one”? Make your way out of this medical maze with a step-by-step plan for finding the perfect physician.

Before starting a search:
Decide whether you want one family practitioner who can be a primary care provider for you and your children, or an internist for adults in the family and a pediatrician for the kids.
Decide how far you’re willing to travel for appointments.

Make an initial list:

  • Compile a general list of doctors in your area.
  • If you have a list of preferred healthcare providers, your insurance company will provide you with this starting point.
  • If you’re looking for a new doctor because you’re moving or because your doctor is retiring, ask your current physician for recommendations.
  • Check to see if local hospitals have a doctor referral service.
  • Make use of friends and other local connections (such as a church or community center) for recommendations.
  • Ask the parents of your children’s classmates to recommend pediatricians.
  • Look in the yellow pages under “physicians” for doctors’ names.
  • Use the Internet in your search.

Narrow the options:
Research the different candidates to learn more about their credentials and practices. Medical competence is obviously the most important requirement for a physician, but factors such as availability and a courteous staff are significant, too.

Verify each doctor’s board certification.

  • Verify each doctor’s education credentials, check that she is licensed to practice in your state, and inquire whether there is a history of any legal or disciplinary actions or any such circumstances currently pending.
  • Call the offices of the doctors on your pared-down list and ask the staff questions about each doctor’s practice.
  • If you find the office staff curt, unpleasant, or unhelpful, that should raise a red flag.

Meeting the finalists:

  • Decide in advance what personal qualities are most important to you in a doctor.
  • Starting with the doctor you think could be your top choice, make an appointment to meet so you can get a sense of personal rapport and compatibility.
  • If you’re not willing to spend the money just to talk, but aren’t yet ready to make a medical appointment, a drop-by visit to the office can still be telling.
  • Interview the physician and evaluate her “bedside manner.”
  • Don’t be afraid to start the search all over again if, after a visit or two, you find you are not satisfied with your choice of doctor.

Choosing a Pediatrician
Don’t wait until your child is due for a checkup to find a new pediatrician. Have a doctor in mind ahead of time, so you know who to call in case of emergency or when you’re dealing with a sick child. Use the general guidelines, above, as well as the following advice.

  • Ask other parents you know and trust who cares for their children.
  • Be sure to choose a pediatrician who is in the neighborhood and easy to get to.
  • If your child is school age, talk to him about what qualities he’d like in a doctor.
  • If you’re pregnant and choosing a pediatrician for your unborn child, check to see if the doctor will agree to a prenatal interview.
  • When you visit a pediatrician’s waiting room, check to see that there are toys and games available, separate areas for sick and well children, and a friendly staff that is comfortable with kids.