Thursday, October 1, 2009

How to choose your baby's doctor

One of the big decisions you face when pregnant for the first time is the choice of a pediatrician. Here are a few things to consider:
  • These days it is usually most important to find out which doctors accept your insurance.
  • It is wise to check to see that the doctor is a board certified pediatrician or family practice doctor. You can check with the state professional licensing board to be sure he/she is a real, licensed doctor and if there are concerns that way.
  • What hospital is the doctor affiliated with? On the Wasatch Front almost all pediatricians practice at Primary Children's Hospital and if you deliver at a hospital other than where your doctor has privileges, he/she will have a colleague see your baby and then transfer the record to his/her office for follow up care, well-child visits, etc. so you don't necessarily need one with privileges at your delivery hospital.
  • You want a doctor who is nice, well-liked, and easy to talk with. Hopefully you won't feel too rushed either. Most doctors will schedule a "meet and greet" appointment at no charge so you can get acquainted and ask questions. Often it's a personality and communication style issue. What works for one person does not for the next. You need a good "fit."
  • Choose a doctor who is supportive of breastfeeding - giving more than just "lip service." Some doctors have lactation specialists in their office. You should interview the doctor to see if he/she does anything to assure success in this area whenever possible. A doctor who just says, "oh, well, give a bottle" and considers this equal is not a good choice.
  • You might check to see how difficult it is to get an appointment at his/her office. Do you like the front-desk staff? That's who you'll be talking to - a lot!
  • Ask about billing practices, fees, balances carried, interest rates, etc.
  • Do they have well-baby office hours or immunization hours that are separate or do they combine?
  • Is the office close and convenient to your house? With a sick child you don't want to have to travel far to see the doctor. Since the delivery is a one-time event, choosing for the future needs is more important than having the doctor at that hospital, should you have to choose. If you have a history of or risk factors for preterm birth, it would be nice to have them there in person.
  • Ask how they handle calls and emergencies after hours. Keep in mind, most pediatricians rotate "on call" times because babies get sick around the clock and your doctor won't be available 24/7. You will likely see one of his or her colleagues at times so you want a group (or relief practice) that you like; not just one doctor.
  • If you have particular issues you feel strongly about, make sure your doctor is on the same page. Do you want a delayed immunization schedule? Find a doctor who supports this. Do you oppose circumcision or want it for your son? Find a doctor who either agrees or has a colleague who handles them if he/she is opposed but you are in favor. (This is a controversial issue and more recently the pendulum seems to be swinging in favor of the circumcision due to infection concerns, but insurance companies and Medicaid still consider it cosmetic and may not pay for it, so find out the doctor's fees). Do you prefer a conservative approach and avoid unnecessary antibiotics or will you be offended if your doctor does not give meds at every sniffle? You may be in conflict on this issue. Is your doctor well-versed in emerging disorders such as autism? Does he/she keep current on new information as it breaks by actively participating in community and professional organizations or do "old school" techniques prevail?
Don't fall for stereotypes. Doctors, like other professionals, have good and bad practitioners apart from race, nation of origin, religion, gender, age, etc. The "older" doctor may not be "old school" and may have wonderful experience and common sense mixed with an up-to-the-minute knowledge base.

Ask your friends for suggestions if you're stumped. Your OB or CNM may also have good ideas and they know your personality. You can also call the newborn nursery at your hospital and ask for some recommendations. Those nurses who have been there a while know who is skilled, dependable, friendly, good with kids, good with parents, helpful and supportive of breastfeeding, etc.

Feel free to comment and give your own ideas - what worked for you or how you made your decision. Best Blogger Tips

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