I have watched my kids choose a primary physician for their own children (my precious grandkids!). These physicians care for the health of these very important little persons - and they also offer advice and guidance through the different challenges and stages of growth.
My kids needed a doctor because they were having kids of their own - but sometimes you need to change doctors for other reasons. Insurance coverage, job or home relocation or just wanting to find a physician more in tune with your family – all account for the approximately 13% of people who change their doctor each year.
The "Do's and Don'ts" of picking a physician
I have watched my family wrestle with this decision several times now. Overall, I think there are several things you should consider (and a few things that really don't matter):
Choose the type of doctor your family needs
Children can be cared for by a couple different types of doctors. A family practice physician treats all family members from infants through the elderly. Family medicine physicians see the health of your entire family - and offer one doctor for all. By contrast, a pediatrician treats children from newborns through the teen years – specializing in children exclusively.
Ask those you trust
Do some research. Ask your coworkers, friends and family for recommendations. Ask what they specifically like about the doctor and the office. Weigh this information with how it compares to your situation and family.
Learn about the doctor's training
Where was the doctor trained? Is the physician board-certified? Board certification indicates the doctor has extra training and has passed special exams after medical school to become specialists in a field of medicine.
How available is the doctor?
Can you see the doctor the same day if you are sick? Does someone answer after-hours urgent calls? Is there an Urgent Care location that is tied to the practice – so there will be access to your family's medical records and history?
Look strictly at location
While finding a physician who is easy to get to - and relatively close to your home or office - I would caution you not to use this as the only criteria. There are many choices for a physician - and you need to find one you and your child are comfortable with.
Rely solely on a recommendation
I know I said to ask those you trust - and I do think that will give you an important insight. However, just because your friend or relative or coworker likes a physician doesn't necessarily mean he or she is the best choice for you. How inquisitive your friend is - how often he or she visits the doctor and even the personality of both your friend and the doctor all influence whether this is the best choice for you.
Preview the doctor
Some physicians provide video introductions – allowing you to see and hear the doctor before you choose. Some offer special appointments to let you meet the doctor and see if the 'fit' is right for you and your family.
ParentSavvy also offers a great way to "preview" the type of advice a physician gives. Physicians answer the "Ask an Expert" questions. Blogs and articles are also written by doctors in the Find an Expert section. Each doctor's profile lists the answers and articles he or she has written. This can be a great 'view' into the type of information you will get from the doctor.