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

If there are multiple doctors in a practice, ask if your child will always see her primary physician, or if she will often be seen by others in the practice. Some practices share patients and you see whoever is available, while in other practices you almost always see one doctor. I believe that seeing one primary doctor ensures continuity of care. However, you may need to see other doctors in an emergency or when your child is sick.

Who Is On Call After Hours?
Many practices alternate being on call (answering patient questions after hours) with the other doctors in the office, while some practices share this responsibility with other groups. As a result, you may not know the person to whom you are speaking, and he may not practice medicine in the exact same manner as your doctor. Some offices utilize nursing triage companies that follow a standard protocol book. This tends to be less personal, and studies have shown that more families are sent to the emergency department as a result.

Overall Philosophy
Vaccines, antibiotics, and alternative therapies such as homeopathic or holistic medicine are all issues that may be important to you, so try to find a doctor with a similar philosophy. Some physicians require vaccines be given at the recommended age, while others may allow you to spread them out. Some may offer homeopathic remedies prior to starting antibiotics. Having a similar philosophy about these issues will make office visits more productive. However, it is a good idea that both you and your doctor are open to discussing options and concerns that may veer from a particular medical philosophy.

Personality
This may be the most important factor to consider when choosing a pediatrician. Not only do you want your child's doctor to be well-trained and medically knowledgeable, but since your son or daughter will be spending the next eighteen to twenty-one years visiting this person, you'll want to make sure that those visits will be pleasant, relaxed, and educational. Some parents choose pediatricians who can just tell them what is wrong and how to fix it; it doesn't matter to them if their doctor has a personality. But you want to feel that you can talk openly with your child's physician about the health issues that concern you. You should feel comfortable speaking with your pediatrician, and hopefully, when your child is older, she will feel comfortable confiding in that person as well.

Ancillary Services
Some offices have an in-office lab that can save trips to a local hospital or lab for blood work. If your pediatrician does not have a lab, she may have nurses who are trained to draw blood, which can then be sent off to the lab without you having to make a separate trip. Another service that can be very helpful is an informational website containing handouts on pertinent topics. Your doctor's website can assure you that you're getting information you can trust rather than trying to weed through a Google search.

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