How to Choose the Right Doctor for Your Child
Health care has been changing in recent years, and parents now have many difficult decisions to make in order to assure their children have high-quality care whenever they need it.
One thing has not changed, though. Regular "well care" is vital for infants and children, for many reasons. That means you need a "primary care physician." That's a doctor who acts as your first place to go for medical care - to keep patients healthy, and to treat most common illnesses, accidents and conditions. Your primary care physician maintains your medical records and history, and helps you find a specialist if you ever need one.
Regular care from your primary care physician helps your child in may ways:
- Regular check-ups help spot problems early--and prevent small problems from becoming big ones.
- Regular well-care ensures that your child has all the immunizations and tests needed to avoid diseases like tuberculosis, measles and others that can have lasting health effects.
- When you have one doctor that your child knows and trusts, both you and your child will feel comfortable when illness or other problems arise.
- Your regular doctor knows what is special about your child, and so can choose treatment options best.
- It is usually more cost-effective to get care for ordinary problems, such as colds and flu, from a primary care doctor, than from an urgent or emergency care facility.
There are two kinds of primary care physicians who understand children. Which kind you choose depends on your own preferences and family situation.
A doctor who specializes in the treatment of babies, children, and teens - a pediatrician - makes sense because children's bodies are very different from those of adults. A pediatrician has four years of medical school, and three years of additional pediatric training to understand all those differences. Since pediatricians only treat children, their offices, from the waiting room to the size of equipment, are designed just for kids, and they are especially trained in the treatments and resources for children.
Family Practitioners also have four years of medical school and three years of additional training in their specialty. But while pediatricians are focused on children only, family practitioners treat everyone in a family, from the youngest to the oldest. That means when there is a family history of a particular problem--or even just a cold or flu being passed around - the family practitioner can help the whole family.
Once you have decided whether you prefer a pediatrician or a family practitioner, you have made a good start. But now, how do you find the just the doctor you will feel best about? A good start is to ask friends, neighbors, and relatives about their experiences with various doctors. If your baby is new (or soon to be born) your obstetrician may have some information, too.
If you live in Central Ohio, this website has a lot of information to help you, as well.
Find all the primary care services available directly from Children's Hospital by browsing the Medical Departments and Specialties Section.
Use the Physician Search on this web site to find a doctor close to where you live or work. This database is also available by calling our live operator assistance line at (614) 722-KIDS (5437). The 722-KIDS operators can give you helpful information about physicians’ office location, hours and specialties too.
Call the doctor's office and get some basic information. Are the office hours convenient? Do the policies on appointments and payment work for you? Does the general approach to health care make sense to you? Are they ready to respond in an emergency?
Make appointments with several doctors whose backgrounds and attitudes impress you, and interview them personally. Many practices offer new patient visits at no charge. Make a list of questions in advance, so you use your time effectively. Here are some questions you might want answered:
If I have questions, when can I call the office? Who will speak with me?
How often will you see my child for check-ups and immunizations?
If there are several doctors in the practice, can I schedule appointments with you, or will I see whoever is in?
How far in advance must I make an appointment for well-care? How quickly can I get in with a sick child?
What insurance do you accept? How are claims handled? When do you expect payment?
With which hospital(s) are you affiliated?
You are likely to meet more than one doctor who seems to meet your needs. Choose the one you think your child and you will feel personally most comfortable with over the long term.
There are hundreds of pediatricians and family practitioners in the Columbus area who are affiliated with Children's Hospital. When you choose one of these doctors, you know that if your child ever needs a hospital, or special diagnostic tests, you can come to a place that specializes in the care of children. You can feel secure that everyone on the staff at Children's is specially qualified in the care of children and their unique medical and emotional needs from infancy through adolescence.