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A Guide To Choosing A Family Doctor

Living in and around New York City has many perks, but one of the most frustrating yet amazing aspects is access to medical care. With some of the world's top hospital and physicians are located right in our tri-state area, the choices can be overwhelming. The key is finding a doctor that works for your whole family's needs and philosophy. By Carolyn Pravda.

Things To Think About

Philosophy: Spend some time thinking about how you want to interact with your family's doctor and what your expectations are before you start your search. Are you a big believer in antibiotics and want a doctor that has an aggressive approach to treating illness or do you prefer to hang back and try alternative remedies before attempting medication?

Location: Consider what's most convenient for your family: Is it better to find something close to home or close to where mom or dad work? Our family of four ends up at the doctor at least once a month. We chose one that was walking distance from our home to avoid traffic headaches and parking nightmares!

Affiliation: We all hope the worst never happens, but it's important to know in advance which hospital your doctor is affiliated with before you or your kids need to be admitted. Doctors frequently have admitting privileges at one or two hospitals. Having your family physician be able to admit you directly to the hospital of your choice can make a stressful time a little easier.

Office: Make sure to visit the office and talk to the staff. Try to get a feeling for how hard it is to get a person on the phone or to make an appointment. These little things can make a big difference with your personal experience separate from the doctor. It's also worth considering if there are both sick and well waiting areas to avoid germs. Finally, for the little ones, are there toys that can make wait times more tolerable?

Vaccine Policy: Kids need a lot of shots. Make sure to check with the doctor to make sure their policies align with your family's views. Will the doctor let you adjust the standard schedule or advise you on the recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics? Who administers the vaccines? How do they handle flu shots each fall? If the kids need multiple shots, are they administered at one time? Do they offer the mist option for flu?

Medical Records: Nowadays, electronic medical records make life easier for patients and doctors. It makes seeing a specialist easier. It means all of a doctor's notes are readable. It allows multiple doctors to coordinate care. It can trigger warnings if you or a family member needs multiple medications that might cause problems. Find out what technology is part of the doctor's practice and simplify your life!

Appointments: This falls under office but how easy is it to get an appointment if you are sick? Can you come in same day? It's worth searching for a doctor that offers weekend hours (even if if it's just Saturday). It can really save on urgent care and emergency visits.

Questions: Every parents has a million of these! Find out how your doctor's office handles them. Does the doctor return calls or is it a nurse? How quickly are calls generally returned? Is there an email option for non-urgent questions?

How To Find Doctors

Ask your friends. Personal recommendations can give you the best feel for a doctor. They all have different personalities and skills – just like the rest of us humans! A friend can offer some of the best insights. Don't just ask for a recommendation though – make sure to ask questions to find out if their doctor is the right fit for you.

Use local message boards. These are some of the most frequently asked question on the parent and neighborhood listservs in our area. Make sure to track down your local online resource. Their archives and current members will be a wealth of information.

Check out the annual list of from New York Magazine's Best Doctors. It's a great list that provides an excellent starting place for researching what will work best for you and your family. Also, check out this directory for additional suggestions.

Carolyn Pravda blogs at Mama Threads (

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