Help, Please: Doctor, Doctor

DailyCandy chief correspondent and mom-to-be SuChin Pak goes pediatrician shopping

md moms!

Most of my searches start and end in the same place — Google. But when it comes to a pediatrician, I need more than search engine smarts. I’m looking for heart. And a partner. So I asked Dr. JJ Levenstein, co-founder of beloved skin care line MD Moms, for tips on finding the perfect doc. Here are some of the questions she said I should ask. — SuChin Pak

What insurance does the office accept?
If the doctor doesn’t take your insurance and you would still like to move forward, ask about the payment policy. Most likely, the office will require full payment at the time of each visit and give you paperwork to file with your insurance company.

What are the office hours?
If you are a working parent, extended or flexible hours will be important to you. Ask the office staff about evening and weekend appointments.

Does the doctor subscribe to a specific parenting philosophy?
If you’re planning to bottle-feed and sleep-train your child, you might feel uncomfortable with a physician who continually asks about your progress with breast-feeding and sings the praises of the family bed. Similarly, if you want to raise your child vegan, you might not like hearing about the benefits of cow’s milk in your toddler’s diet. Ask a prospective doctor about his opinions on feeding, sleeping, and diet.

How does the doctor handle immunizations?
There are various opinions on immunizations: how many should a child get at each visit, at what age should they be given, and even if they should be given. If you have strong opinions about immunizations, discuss them ahead of time. It is critical that you and your pediatrician work together, especially if you are fearful or reluctant to vaccinate.

What is the doctor’s schedule and availability?
It’s important to know whether your doctor works full time or part time and who would see your child in his absence. Does the office employ only doctors, or are there other providers, such as nurse practitioners or PAs? Who will answer questions when your doctor is away? Can you phone, email, or text your doctor? And what is a typical response time? Who is on call at night — your doctor/group or are there others who share the call? If the latter, are there provisions to reach your doctor in case of a serious issue? Some offices relegate night calls to nurse on-call services; others refer ill patients to emergency rooms at night.

Photo: Steve Cole / Getty Images