During medical school, when the rare opportunity presents itself for a trainee to speak to a seasoned physician about how things work in the real world, one of the most common questions asked is, “How does one develop a thriving practice?”
Most often, the answer to this question is the aphorism: “The three A’s: be affable, available, and able.”
As a parent, you can use the same parameters to make an intelligent decision regarding your choice of pediatrician, or any physician for that matter.
Affable: Patients and physicians very often align in terms of personality, and this can be important to both treatment and healing.
It is the job of your pediatrician to monitor the growth, development, and health of your child. In doing this, the pediatric professional you choose needs to be honest and forthright with any and all information regarding your child. Any problems need to be dealt with head on, and need to be communicated to you in a way you fully understand. Sweeping problems under the rug to make parents feel better is not acceptable.
Available: In our 21st-century world of instant communication and online information, we have come to have heightened expectations of what is reasonable.
That being said, it is reasonable to expect that your pediatrician has an answering service, office staff, and an information technology infrastructure that allows you access in a reasonable amount of time.
This must be tempered with the knowledge that different practices are configured differently. Depending on how many doctors and sites the individual or group has, information transfer may be less than optimal.
It is important to take logistics into consideration before choosing a solo practitioner versus a large group practice.
If you desire your child to be seen by one doctor only, which would be an individual practice, check to see if the doctor has a coverage arrangement that will suit you.
Able: When a problem arises with your child, you want answers. Very often, definitive answers are not available, but the best knowledge to date in the form of “evidence-based medicine” is accessible and should be demanded.
Understand, however, that pediatricians are human. While 60 to 70 percent of all problems should be within the comfort zone of board-certified pediatricians, there always exist areas that individual doctors are less adept at, and will make a referral to a sub-specialist.
If you know that your child has a particular health problem, assess the prospective pediatrician’s comfort level with this issue and satisfy yourself that the pediatrician’s approach to the problem is to your liking. You will avoid misunderstandings in the future and any undermining of trust in your pediatrician when things get difficult.
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