Choosing a New Doctor
For My Child
What Type of Doctor Does My Child Need?
These physicians treat the entire family, from babies through adults, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians www.aafp.org/online/en/home.html. They are familiar with the challenges of the teen years and they can perform Pap smears and pelvic exams. (Of course, if your child starts off being seen by a family physician as an infant, that doctor can remain her doctor indefinitely, Dardick notes.) To find a family-practice doctor, visit http://familydoctor.org/cgi-bin/memdir.pl and search by ZIP code.
These "doctors for adults" generally accept patients ages 18 and older, notes Perro. If your child is heading off to college and is ready for an "adult" doctor, this may be a choice to consider. Visit http://www.acponline.org for more information or call 800-523-1546 to find an internal-medicine specialist in your area.
The main difference between these doctors and internal-medicine specialists is that adolescent-medicine specialists are specifically trained in dealing with body-image, nutrition, sexuality, mental-health, substance-abuse and other issues that can be of particular concern during the teen years. Visit the Society for Adolescent Medicine's website at www.adolescenthealth.org to learn more. To locate an adolescent-medicine specialist, search by ZIP code at http://www.adolescenthealth.org/find.htm.
What Should I Ask a New Doctor?
1. Will you work with my family's insurance company, HMO, etc?
2. Do you prefer that a parent be present, or not present, during examinations? Will my child have a chance to speak privately with you during appointments? What is your policy regarding patient confidentiality for minors regarding issues like birth control and STDs? (In some states, doctor-patient confidentiality regarding such issues is protected by law.)
3. Are you comfortable talking with teens about sexual issues, drug use, eating disorders, etc? And do you do this as a matter of course?
4. Do you perform gynecological exams for girls?
5. How much time do you allow for office visits for teen patients?
6. What information do you need from my child's pediatrician? (Generally, you'll need to request a copy of your child's medical records, including immunizations, growth chart, X-rays, surgical reports, current medications, etc.)