Finally, it’s vital to choose a practice that approaches minimizing risk for Covid-19 exposure in ways that meet your expectations and comfort level. For example, some practices are offering telehealth options; separating “sick” and “well” visits by time or space within the clinic; or designating specific doors or visit times for newborns and other immunocompromised children.
Interview the pediatrician
The A.A.P. recommends a prenatal visit with a pediatrician for all expectant families, and particularly for first-time parents, single parents, families who are new to the area, and for women with high-risk or multiple gestation pregnancies who might anticipate needing specific services for their child’s health and developmental needs. Although these visits are not 100 percent necessary or always feasible, meeting your child’s pediatrician face-to-face before your first appointment can give you a chance to see whether you are comfortable with the doctor’s approach and philosophy of care.
Dr. Tony GiaQuinta, M.D., the president of the Indiana chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, suggests narrowing your search to about two or three doctors and calling their offices to ask whether they are accepting new patients, and if they are willing to schedule an in-person interview. “Building a trusting and respectful relationship can take time, so the more time we spend each other, the more you realize that I want nothing more than for your child to grow up strong and healthy,” Dr. GiaQuinta said. “Meeting before your baby’s arrival gives the chance to jump-start our relationship.”
If you’re pregnant, the A.A.P. recommends scheduling this appointment at the beginning of the third trimester, or around 28 to 30 weeks.
And ultimately, go with your gut. Select the provider who takes your insurance, is accepting new patients, and best meets your family’s needs and priorities.
Don’t be afraid to switch doctors
Finding a competent health care provider is necessary, but not always sufficient. It’s important to find someone who you can trust, communicate with, and whose approach to care mirrors your expectations. After all, says Dr. Jaime Moy, a primary care pediatrician in the Los Angeles area, “it’s the partnership between parent and pediatrician that ensures a child’s healthy growth and development into adulthood.”
Dr. Moy continued: “If that relationship does not form, parents should feel empowered to find another provider who they can make that connection with.” Remember, this is your child’s primary health care provider, and someone you will rely on not only for anticipated growth milestones, but also during those unexpected moments that inevitably arise.
Erika R. Cheng, Ph.D., and Tracey A. Wilkinson, M.D., are assistant professors of pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine.