9 Tips for Choosing a Pediatrician

  • Doctor with baby
    A Personal Decision
    Choosing a pediatrician is one of the most important decisions you will make for your child's health. Your pediatrician serves as your child’s primary care doctor. Your pediatrician will guide you through many decisions about protecting your child’s health or treating a condition. How do you find the best pediatrician who is right for your family? Here are important factors to keep in mind.

  • Mom on phone looking at laptop with child
    1. Get Referrals
    Start with a referral list from your own doctor. You can also ask family, friends, and other healthcare providers for recommendations. If you’re new to an area, ask your former pediatrician for a referral in your new town. Then, take the time to research the pediatricians’ credentials and experience on Healthgrades.com. As you narrow your list, visit open houses that many practices offer so you can learn about the practice. You can also make appointments to meet and interview the pediatricians.

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    2. Research the Pediatrician’s Credentials
    Board certification is one of the most important factors to consider when selecting a pediatrician. It tells you that the doctor has the necessary training, skills and experience to provide healthcare for your child. Also confirm that the pediatrician has no history of malpractice claims or disciplinary actions. You can find the pediatrician’s medical school, training hospital, certifications, and malpractice and disciplinary history on Healthgrades.com and state websites.

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    3. Consider the Pediatrician’s Experience
    Parents call upon their pediatrician for everything from well-child visits and routine physicals to allergy and chronic headache treatments. So experience matters. The more experience a pediatrician has, the better your results are likely to be. If your child has a specific condition, such as ADHD, ask how many patients with the condition the pediatrician has treated. If you know that your child will need a specific procedure, ask how many of the procedures the doctor has performed and find out about complication rates—complications the doctor has encountered as well as your own risk of complications.

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    4. Consider Gender
    Most likely, your baby or toddler will not care whether a doctor is male or female. While you may have your own preference for your child, think about the years to come. For example, embarrassment or fear of a pelvic exam or breast exam may be a reason that a teenage girl would prefer a female doctor. If gender is not something you want to base your decision on right now, consider choosing a larger practice with both male and female doctors.

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    5. Consider Office Atmosphere
    You may be spending a good deal of time at your pediatrician’s office if you have an infant or very young child. Make sure you are comfortable with the practice and that your child's needs will be met. For example, are there separate waiting areas for sick visits and well visits? Does the office have a small play area or other ways to keep your child occupied while you wait? How many people are waiting? How does the office staff treat you and other parents and patients? Is the pediatrician part of a group practice? Ask about after hours urgent care and what happens if your pediatrician goes on vacation.

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    6. Ask About Telehealth Capabilities
    Pediatricians can diagnose and treat some conditions in children using telecommunications technology, including two-way video, smartphones, and email; it's called telehealth. Ask if the doctor offers telehealth capabilities. Telehealth doesn’t replace hands-on in-person office visits, but for many patients, it means fewer trips to the doctor’s office. Some conditions can be managed by sending symptoms and vital signs you collect at home and having a “virtual visit” with your provider. Telehealth can also be used for routine follow-ups and minor complaints too, making it a convenient option. Check to make sure your health insurance will pay for telehealth services.

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    7. Evaluate Communication Style
    Choose a pediatrician with whom you are comfortable talking and who supports your information needs. When you first meet the pediatrician, ask a question and notice how he or she responds. Does he or she welcome your questions and answer them in ways that you can understand? Find a pediatrician who shows an interest in getting to know your family, who will consider your treatment preferences, and who will respect your decision-making process.

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    8. Read Patient Reviews
    Reading what other people have to say about a doctor can provide insight into how a doctor practices medicine, as well as how his or her medical practice is operated. Patient reviews typically reflect people's experience with scheduling appointments, wait times, office environment, and office staff friendliness. You can learn how well patients trust the doctor, how much time he or she spends with their patients, and how well he or she answers questions.

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    9. Know What Your Insurance Covers
    Your insurance coverage is a practical matter. To receive the most insurance benefits and pay the least out-of-pocket for your care, you may need to choose a pediatrician who participates in your plan. You should still consider credentials, experience, outcomes, and hospital quality as you select a pediatrician from your plan.

9 Tips for Choosing a Pediatrician

About The Author

Sarah Lewis is a pharmacist and a medical writer with over 25 years of experience in various areas of pharmacy practice. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy degree from West Virginia University and a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy. She completed Pharmacy Practice Residency training at the University of Pittsburgh/VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. 
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.