How To Find The Right Pediatrician For Your Family

Photo by Michael/surroundsound5000

To find a new restaurant, almost any search engine does the trick—and the same goes for many other goods and services, from shopping stores to hairdressers. Unfortunately, that’s not how finding a pediatrician works.

“The internet is not the best place to get information because it’s anonymous and a lot of people share grievances [more than the] positives,” says Dr. Liza Natale of Pediatric Associates of NYC. So what’s a new parent to do?

The first step is to get some recommendations. Natale suggests checking with fellow parents who have already chosen a pediatrician or getting a list of personally approved doctors from your own physician. If you’re consulting friends, Dr. Michel Cohen of Tribeca Pediatrics recommends asking about their doctors’ availability. “How fast do you get answers when you visit, and, in an emergency, will you really be able to reach your pediatrician?”

To that point, Dr. Judith Goldstein of Global Pediatrics notes the increasing presence of “group practices.” This means that doctors share on-call shifts at night, on weekends, and during holidays—so taking more than 30 minutes to call back for an emergency isn’t acceptable.

Other times, it’s about who you can get in with in the first place. Check various pediatric offices for group visits and presentations, free meet-and-greets, and other prenatal-specific services.

Once you have one doctor (or a few) in mind, set up a first visit. At the office, you assess fit factors as simple as the look and feel of the space. While cleanliness and organization are musts, a welcoming set-up can help relax anxious children. For facilities, look for an office equipped to perform simple lab work and multiple tests—that’ll mean less running around, Goldstein points out.

Patience is key. A doctor should be open to questions without making parents feel silly, Natale says. Cohen, however, notes that some parents do find it reassuring to have a more authoritative sounding board.

The one thing to get a second opinion on, Cohen cautions, is medication. “It gets tricky if you ask their approach and they say that they try to be very hands off—when in reality they’ll prescribe medication every visit.”

At the end of the day, Goldstein says, “Assure yourself that this is someone you can really work with—someone warm and flexible.” After all the basics check out, it’s like all other important choices in life: It comes down to intuition.

Keep reading for our 2013 Health & Wellness Guide for families.