Selecting a new pediatrician

Q: We are new in town. How do we pick a new pediatrician for our three kids?

A: Many parents are often faced with choosing a new pediatrician for their children, whether moving to a new area or changing clinics with new insurance coverage. Depending on your personal preference, wants, comfort level and style, you are highly likely to find someone that you – and your children – are comfortable seeing on a regular basis.

One of the first considerations for many families is to determine which physicians and clinics are covered by your insurance policy. It may be easiest to select a pediatrician that is considered “in network” for your health plan, as this is often the most cost efficient. You will want to check your insurance coverage for specifics about your “in-network” and “out-of-network” providers.

Another item to contemplate in selecting a pediatrician is size of the clinic, and if it is a “stand alone” facility or is part of a larger clinic system. This matters for things such as open “after hours” (evenings, weekends and holidays) availability, alternative care options, etc. Ease of setting appointments and ease of getting through on the telephone to talk live with a nurse or doctor is another important factor to consider when you think about clinic size. Also, find out the likelihood of seeing your chosen pediatrician for well visits and/or sick visits and how the clinic addresses those issues.

Finally, and, perhaps the most important in terms of care for your child(ren), is determining if a particular pediatrician is within a practice. Some additional considerations include if she or he has a particular area of interest within pediatrics (sports medicine, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), allergies, asthma, etc.). Board certification in pediatrics is generally a highly positive credential to hold. Some families will prefer a female pediatrician and some will prefer a male pediatrician, although this generally becomes more of a concern as kids reach their pre-teen years and often prefer a same-sex pediatrician. Many clinics provide websites with physician history, which can also be helpful as you select a pediatrician. 

This column is intended to provide general information only and not medical advice. Contact your health care provider with questions about your child. Dr. Peter Dehnel is a board-certified pediatrician and medical director with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota. Send questions to