By Beverly Gaines, M.D.
Finding the right pediatrician for your children is an important decision. You are looking for a partner in your children’s health care. Your pediatrician will be a part of your life from birth to college and beyond in some cases.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the national organization of 60,000 board-certified pediatricians, promotes the concept of you finding a medical home for your child. A medical home is defined as primary care that is accessible, continuous, comprehensive, family-centered, coordinated, compassionate and culturally effective.
The concept of medical home is based on you finding a pediatrician who you feel will deliver high quality care to your children, someone with whom you feel mutual trust and respect and who will respect your family’s cultural and religious beliefs. A medical home includes connections and services to meet the medical and non-medical needs of your children and your family, provides after hours and weekend access to medical consultation and coordination of care with a team of other health-care providers when needed.
So, how do you find a pediatrician and a medical home for your children? If you are expecting, your obstetrician may recommend a pediatrician. This is an important and reliable referral because your obstetrician is familiar with the professional reputation of this person and has worked with this person over a period of time.
If you are not expecting, you can ask your primary care physician for a referral to a pediatrician. Family and friends with children are another excellent source of referral. They can also give you a perspective of what it feels like to be a patient of that pediatrician.
In addition, there are community-based referral programs; most hospitals have a list of the pediatricians with staff privileges at their hospital. The local and state professional medical associations (Kentucky Medical Association, Jefferson County Medical Association and Falls City Medical Society) have referral programs of the pediatricians who belong to their organizations. The national medical association, the professional association of the African American physicians in the country, has a referral program on their website, www.nmanet.org, and the AAP has a referral program of their members available on their website, www.aap.org.
Take a personal inventory of your needs and prioritize them – assess what is most important. The list should include professional credentials, reputation in the community, communication style, age, gender, race, ethnicity, office location, office staff, insurances accepted, size of the practice and whether you can choose which pediatrician you will see at each visit, appointment availability, policy regarding sick visits (can you get in the same day?) and payment methods.
The last step in your selection process is an interview or prenatal consultation with your prospective pediatrician. Most pediatricians are happy to do a consultation with a prospective new patient at no charge. This is the most critical step in your selection process, because it allows you to try on a relationship on with this pediatrician. It answers questions for you that no one else can.
- How do you feel about this person?
- Are they qualified? Competent? Professional? Caring? Communicative?
- Are they sensitive to the special needs of a person of your race, ethnicity, religion and cultural beliefs?
- Are they sensitive to the special needs of your lifestyle?
- Can you effectively communicate to this person?
- Do you feel you can trust them?
- Do you feel confident in their abilities to care for your child?
- Are they accessible and available?
- Do you like them, their office and their office staff?
- Are you comfortable entering into a partnership with this person and feel they respect you?
Once you have made your decision, inform your obstetrician of your selection. Then sit back and relax until the baby comes. Your pediatrician will be notified when your baby is born. If you already have children, your next step is to set up your first visit with your new pediatrician.
Enjoy this relationship!
Beverly Gaines, M.D., F.A.A.P., is a board-certified pediatrician and has practiced in Louisville since 1984. She owns and operates Beverly Gaines, M.D. & Associates PSC. Dr. Gaines career is long and distinguished locally and nationally.