Choosing a Physician for Your Child
Helping Your Child Stay Healthy
An apple every day can help your child stay healthy. But keeping a doctor away will not. In fact, finding the right doctor for your newborn or growing child is one of the most important ways of ensuring a lifetime of good health.
Regularly scheduled exams and vaccinations are important precautions that help prevent disease. An unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated child risks acquiring diseases such as whooping cough (pertussis) and measles. Even newborns benefit from early immunizations such as Hepatitis B.
Find a Doctor Before You Need One
If your son or daughter doesn't have a physician, don't wait until he or she is ill or needs a doctor quickly. Do your research in advance. Two types of physicians - pediatricians and family practitioners - have training and expertise in treating children. Your personal doctor may assist you in referring your child to a pediatrician or family practitioner.
Many people rely on recommendations from friends or relatives. But because their medical history, health insurance coverage or other factors may differ from yours and your child's, it's a good idea to determine what you're looking for before searching for a physician. A hospital's physician referral service or the county medical society can supply background information. Then, call the doctor's office before making an appointment. Often, doctors will provide opportunities to meet before making a decision. Ask questions to establish some basic information on the doctor and his or her credentials:
- Is the doctor on the staff of a hospital that is affiliated with a program such as CHOP Pediatric Care at Abington Memorial Hospital?
- Is the doctor board-certified in pediatrics, family medicine, or another specialty?
- Does the doctor accept your health insurance coverage?
- Is the doctor's office conveniently located? Are the doctor's appointment hours compatible with your schedule?
The First Appointment
When you and your child arrive for the first appointment, the following tips can help you evaluate if you've made a good choice:
- Make sure the doctor thoroughly examines your child. The doctor should explain to both you and your child what he or she is doing, in language you can understand.
- Note how attentive the doctor is to you and your child. Is he or she more interested in talking to you than in filling in charts?
- Does the doctor try to make you and your child feel comfortable?
- Are you and your child comfortable with his or her personality? Do you share similar philosophies on important issues such as breastfeeding or working mothers?
Often, physicians offer a free or low-cost prenatal interview to expectant parents. This gives you an excellent opportunity to evaluate attributes that you consider important. You may find it easier to relate to a more seasoned physician, or to a young, recently qualified physician - whichever you prefer.
Remember that the responsibility for a successful relationship with a doctor is mutual. If something isn't clear, ask about it. Know your family's medical history. Volunteer information about any health concerns you have about your child. Any medical issues that you have strong feelings about should be communicated in advance. Don't just promise - follow the doctor's orders.
You're making an investment in your child's future good health. Be sure you're spending your time and money wisely.
We Can Help
Abington Memorial Hospital's physician referral service can help you find a doctor who matches your needs. Call 215-481-MEDI for a free directory or for information on our staff physicians, dentists and podiatrists. To find out about CHOP Pediatric Care at Abington Memorial Hospital, call 215-481-4320.