If you are delivering in a hospital setting, you will need to pre-register several weeks before delivery. As part of this pre-registration, you will be asked to identify the name and contact information for your baby's doctor. Your healthy baby will have his first newborn exam by the physician no later than 24 hours after birth. It is important that the hospital has this information before you go into labor so they know which doctor to call to tell them that they have a new baby to exam at the hospital. The doctor you select must be on staff at the hospital where you are delivering. And, you will want this doctor to be covered by your insurance company. It is the patient's responsibility to check insurance coverage. These first two issues are a good way to get started with the process:
1. Call the hospital or ask your delivering physician for a list of hospital baby doctors (pediatricians or family practice physicians) who are eligible to care for baby at the hospital.
2. Cross-check this list with your insurance company to see who is covered and at what percentage (network vs. out of network can make a big difference in the amount you will owe).
Next, talk to friends, neighbors, colleagues in the area and ask which pediatric practice they use. You will build an important relationship with this person over the next few years. Current patients of the physician's practice can often provide valuable insight into the softer, yet important issues such as:
- How responsive are they to questions from new parents?
- Do they charge a fee for new parent advice?
- Do they have resources in place for new parents regarding things like illness identification, feeding, sleep, crying, and safety issues (brochures, an advice hotline, a website with parent informaton, etc). For many new parents, sleep issues for baby will become a key issue. Some practices such as Northwestern Children's Practice in Streeterville, medical director, Dr. Weissbluth, author of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, specialize in sleep and comfort issues. Check them out on facebook, YouTube, or sign up for their newletter or iPhone app.
- What do you like about the practice?
After you have it narrowed down to a handful of people, the below issues can help you trim down the list even further:
3. Are the doctors board certified? Members of the American Academy of Pediatrics?
4. Which hospitals do they use if your child needs to be admitted to the hospital at some point? Is it a hospital close to home? Does it have a pediatric ED or pediatric intensive care unit?
5. How do they support breastfeeding? Is there a certified lactation consultant in the office? Who answers your questions about breastfeeding?
6. What are their office hours and do they meet your needs? Are there evening and/or weekend hours? Is parking an issue?
7. How do they handle sick visits and sick calls? Are there open "sick hours" where you can just come in with your sick child? Do you have to call first and then wait for a call back? What is the availability for same-day appointments if needed?
8. What other interests does the doctor have? Asthma, obesity. etc? Do they have Medical Home Project for children with special needs?
9. Is it a group practice, or a solo practice? Will you see the same doctor all the time? Is there a nurse practitioner on staff and what is her role?
10. Lastly, and probably the most helpful ... call and schedule an in-person appointment with one or two of your top choices. This is a standard practice and pediatricians will accomodate this free of charge. This will allow you to talk with the doctor to see if the two of you sync regarding communication style, philosophies, etc. Additionally, sitting in the waiting room for a few minutes will also allow you to get a feel for the staff, dynamics, types of patients seen, etc.
There are many fabulous pediatricians in the Chicagoland area. Much of the above information can be found by checking the pediatrician's profile online with their affiliate hospital. If you need help with your web-searching skills, the Health Learning Centers at Northwestern Memorial Hospital provide free library services to the public. They are staffed with trained medical librarians and educators who specialize in helping with issues like this one.