Excerpt: 'Eat, Sleep, Poop' by Scott Cohen

If the office staff is not friendly and helpful, it can undercut any positive feelings you have for your pediatrician. Receptionists answer the phone when you want to make an appointment for your sick child. The billing staff are the folks you'll speak with if you cannot make a payment or are confused about a specific charge. And the nurses will be giving your child her shots and answering medical questions on the phone. The more comfortable your child feels with the nurses on staff, the more relaxed she will feel during her office visit.

While your infant will not be as aware of the office environment as an older child, as she grows she will appreciate the kid friendliness of the pediatrician's office. Many children refer to their doctor's office as the "shot place," but the more comfortable and fun the office is, the less anxious your child will feel. You may want to ask if there are separate entrances and waiting areas for sick and well visits, so that your healthy newborn isn't sitting next to a toddler who is coughing and sneezing. How close and easy it is to park is also an important consideration when transporting your infant back and forth to the doctors.

Financial Responsibility
It is incumbent upon you, the patient, to discuss your financial responsibility with a potential doctor's office. Find out what insurances the doctor accepts and if he is in your insurance's network. If your pediatrician does not take your insurance, you are considered out of network and you may have to pay in full at the time of each visit. Your newborn is on either Mom's or Dad's insurance policy for only thirty days after delivery. Make sure you call your insurance company to place your child permanently on your plan or their own plan within those thirty days. This will ensure that your child is covered without the need for underwriting. And also make sure to verify her benefits so you are not surprised when the bill comes.

Hospital Affiliation
It is important that your doctor has admitting privileges at the hospital at which you are delivering because he can see his patients there and write orders on how to treat them. He will be able to see your baby every day and is responsible for writing orders and discharging your newborn. If your child has to be hospitalized later in life, your pediatrician can take care of her in the hospital with which he is affiliated. If your pediatrician does not have privileges at the hospital where you are delivering, ask the hospital or your obstetrician whom he recommends to see your child in the interim.

As a child, I always dreaded waiting in the cold exam room for a half hour, naked except for that strange paper gown that never seemed to fit. You may think that a doctor who sees his patients on time is unheard of, but it's not inappropriate to ask about a pediatrician's punctuality. Doctors expect you to show up on time, so it is okay to expect the same from them (with a little leeway for emergencies).

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