Dear Dr. Lanny: I’m scheduled for a visit with a new pediatrician for my son, age 4, and daughter, age 8. I don’t want to start off on the wrong foot. What are some of your pet peeves that we ought to avoid? What are some things we ought to do to lay groundwork for a good relationship with the new doctor?
A: This is so nice. Usually I’m in the position of putting on my best clothes, so to speak, to convince people that I’m someone they might trust with the care of their children. The idea that parents would want to look good for me is very exciting.
It is also a good starting point to discuss how we can best work together for the sake of our children.
As I wrote in a prior column on choosing a pediatrician (see January 2008 issue of Family Times), I’m not convinced of the value of meeting before committing to a new practice. Instead, I believe that gathering recommendations from family and friends is the best way of choosing a new doctor. There are exceptions, however, particularly if you have special requirements.
For example, if you do not intend to immunize your child, the pediatrician will appreciate discussing this in advance. There are doctors, myself included, who may not wish to enter into a relationship in that circumstance. Also, if your child has any complex problems it would be wise to make that known to see if the new doctor has experience with that diagnosis.
The doctor will also be more comfortable meeting you and your child for the first time if he has been able to review the past medical history. Your child should not arrive before her records.
Before making the first appointment, be sure her file has been received. If your child has basically been healthy, immunization records and growth charts are really all that is necessary.
Then, on the day of the appointment, arrive on time. I can hear you saying, “Will you be on time, doctor?” All I can say is, I’ll try my best.
Pediatric offices are very hard to keep on schedule. I ask you to believe that we are trying, but there are often factors beyond our control that throw the schedule into chaos. Ask me personally, and I’ll tell you my tale of woe.
A new, nearly universal, concern is the dreaded cell phone. Stepping into an exam room in a pediatric office, it is common to encounter a selection of adults, including parents, grandparents, other relatives and friends. And they may all have cell phones.
If at all possible, please leave these extra adults at home or in the car. As far as your cell phone is concerned, I’d love it if you left that home as well.
However, it seems reasonable to me that your time is as important as mine and, if I’m behind schedule I can’t see why you can’t use your time as you wish—and that includes being on your phone. Please end the conversation, however, and turn it off once we are together.
If at all possible, only bring the child who has an appointment, or at least a minimal number of other children. I know that it is difficult, and expensive, to find childcare. I understand that, and only ask you to do what is reasonably possible.
Often, when one child becomes ill, others in the family soon follow the same course. If baby Buster has an appointment, and big brother Bubba becomes ill the day of the appointment, please call us in advance and ask if we can see both children. Very little screws up the schedule (see paragraph on cell phones) more than unannounced patients.
Along the same lines is the pronouncement of new information—“Oh, by the way, she has been having fainting spells”—when the patient is scheduled for something simple like checking the ear after an infection. If new problems will need to be addressed, please let us know in advance or make a separate appointment.
Again, I am aware of co-pays, and deductibles and only ask you to do what you can.
Is that all, you ask? Not really, but I think that’s enough to get us off to a good start. You can tell me your requirements when we meet. And I’d like to mention two words that always go a long way toward a happy doctor: home cooking.
Dr. Alan Freshman, father of two grown boys, practices at Syracuse Pediatrics. Consult your own physician before making decisions about your family’s health care. Send e-mail to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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