During open enrollment, parents may evaluate their family’s healthcare plan, which can mean searching for new doctors and specialists for their children. Choosing your child’s primary care doctor is important. We spoke to Dr. Dan Mackey, a CHOC Children’s pediatrician, who offered tips to help parents make the right decision for their child.
Importance of a Pediatrician
It’s important for children to see a pediatrician, rather than a family practitioner who may treat older members of the family. A pediatrician is specially trained to care for infants, children and teens. A pediatrician has graduated from medical school and completed a three-year residency program in pediatrics. A board-certified pediatrician has passed rigorous exams administered by the American Board of Pediatrics.
Kids are not “little adults.” Different ages can present different illnesses and behavioral problems, which pediatricians are trained to recognize, diagnose and treat. Teens need pediatric care, too. Their bodies are still young and growing, their brains are still developing, and they are not yet ready for adult care, says Mackey.
A pediatrician’s office is generally designed with kids in mind, with waiting areas and exam rooms geared toward making children feel comfortable and engaged. Pediatricians’ office schedules are usually created to accommodate same-day and sick appointments.
In addition to choosing a pediatrician who is in-network with the family’s insurance plan, parents want to make sure the pediatrician is aligned with good pediatric subspecialists and their local children’s hospital. Other factors to consider include:
- Bedside manner
- Interaction with office staff
- Office hours and ease of scheduling an appointment
- Medical records: paper or electronic
- Method of communication with doctor: many offices offer phone, email and an online patient portal
Part of the Family
Having an open dialogue with your child’s pediatrician is important. Parents shouldn’t shy away from asking questions.
“Being available for questions is important to families,” says Mackey. “A lot of teaching and education goes on over the years as the child grows up. It starts with educating the parent about nursing and nutrition, and continues with discussions about child safety, including issues like discipline and behavior.”
In addition to being a trusted resource on parenting, your child’s pediatrician is someone with whom you will spend a lot of time as your children grow up.
“Hopefully the relationship the family has with the pediatrician becomes a very long and pleasant one that lasts many years,” says Mackey. “Eventually, the pediatrician almost becomes part of the family, and a trusted member to turn to for help and advice. The best part of the job is getting to watch the child grow up.”
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