Partnering With Your Child’s Health Care Provider
Choosing a primary care provider for your child is very important. He or she will become a close partner in caring for your child’s health from birth through their teen years. Building a trusting relationship is therefore in your best interest. Below are some pointers to to partnering with your child’s health care provider.
Tips for communicating with your child’s provider
Communicating with your child’s provider is a balance of open communication and reasonable expectations. You can expect your child’s provider to:
- Help you monitor your child’s health.
- Explain your child’s growth and development and what to expect from each stage.
- Diagnose, explain and treat your child’s minor to moderately serious illnesses.
- Provide referrals in cases of illness or injury requiring special expertise.
- Offer insight on your child’s nutrition, exercise and weight.
- Assess and offer advice for any developmental, behavioral, emotional and learning issues.
- Recommend coping interventions for family changes (i.e., death, separation or divorce).
You can aid your child’s provider by:
- Coming to the visit prepared with details of your concerns and your child’s current symptoms (such as your child had a temperature of 103 degrees and vomited 4 times). The more information you provide, the better the doctor will be able to assess your child’s health.
- Providing information on what you have tried so far to help relieve symptoms, and what has and hasn’t worked.
- Jotting down your questions before the appointment so you’ll remember everything you want to bring up even if he or she doesn’t ask.
Communication with your child’s provider should be seen as give-and-take. Letting your provider know you trust him or her to care for your child is important. You should always feel comfortable asking questions, but allowing the provider to make decisions, diagnosis and provide (or not provide) medications based on what is best for your child’s health and not what is easiest for you or makes you feel better is the best approach.
Pointers for building a strong relationship
Make the most of your relationship with your child’s provider and the office staff by:
- Being informed, but not overwhelming. There are many sources for health information these days, including the
internet, apps, books and TV, but it is unrealistic to expect your provider to know about every health resource or the latest breakthrough you’ve found. If you have particular information you’d like the doctor to review, be sure to provide it to them well in advance to your appointment. Keep these requests to a minimum though and utilize office staff or a nurse to access informational brochures or recommendations to reliable resources for health information.
- Be attentive during the visit. Avoid distractions so you can focus your full attention on communicating. This means turning off your cell phone and, if possible, leaving other children with another caregiver.
- Know the rules. Be respectful of everyone’s time by arriving for appointments on time. If you are unavoidably late, let the office know and give 24 hours notice if you must reschedule. Become familiar with payment requirements and your insurance company’s referral policy to help make appointments run smoothly.
- Follow up. Before leaving, be sure you understand what follow-up appointments or tests your child needs. Take notes on any instructions and ensure you understand how to give your child any prescribed medications. Be back in touch with the office if the medication isn’t working or your child seems to have worsening or additional symptoms.
The stress of having a sick or injured child can strain communication between parents and health care providers. Sometimes all of the information covered in well-child visits can be overwhelming or leave little time for your questions. But don’t ever hesitate to ask questions, knowing that no question is insignificant. Many times issues can be easily resolved with the help of the doctor. Finally, don’t be afraid to offer feedback about your office visit experience, such as if you felt rushed. A good provider and office staff will want to partner with you to provide the best care possible for your child.