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University of Michigan’s Dr. David Hanauer: How to choose the right pediatrician

Choosing a pediatrician for your child can be tough. After all, your kid’s health is at stake.

david_hanauerA poll from the University of Michigan Mott Children’s Hospital found that many parents look at a variety of factors, including doctor-rating websites, when picking a doctor for a child. spoke with Dr. David Hanauer, a pediatrician and clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Michigan, to learn more.

What are the top factors that the parents who were polled said they consider when choosing a pediatrician?

The most important one was that the pediatrician accepted their health insurance (92 percent) followed by convenient office location, at 65 percent. The doctor’s years of experience were also important. Also, parents relied on word of mouth from family and friends and ratings on websites.

Which parents were most likely to use the doctor-rating websites?

Parents under 30 were more likely than parents over 30 to use these websites.

What’s out there in terms of doctor-rating websites? How helpful are they?

There are a lot of sites out there, and it’s hard to know even who’s behind some of these sites. What you will notice is most physicians have very few ratings, and many have none. And that’s a big issue: How do you know that’s really a representative sample of the patients who went there?

Also, ratings sites are measuring different things. They ask people to rate different aspects of the experience, and they’re not consistent across sites. Some of the things people are rating may not be the things that matter most to you or me. So, for example, people might be rating whether the front office was clean or the staff was friendly. That may be somewhat important, but not as important as the quality of care.

When you say quality of care, what do you mean by that?

Quality is very hard to measure, and there’s a lot of disagreement about what quality is. But I think someone who’s doing good quality care will be adhering to the best evidence and the best guidelines. That’s sometimes hard for patients to measure or know.

How much are parents using these websites to make decisions about doctors?

Well, among those who have gone to these websites looking for information, about a third have selected a doctor based on the information and about another third have avoided a doctor based on the information.

Are there any tools parents can use if they want to learn about quality of care provided by a particular doctor?

One thing a parent might want to do is actually interview the physician. Often you can talk to them and ask questions at no cost. But there is really no clear place to go and find this information – which is what, I think, drives parents to doctor-rating websites in the first place.

Do you have advice for parents who plan to use doctor-rating websites?

I think (the rating sites) should be just one of many different sources of information. You should really look in detail at how many people actually left a rating – was it two people or was it 200? I would not really trust the experiences of one or two people to really reflect the broad experiences of everyone who might see that physician.

Can you offer any other tips for parents on how to choose a pediatrician?

I think the key really is to use as many sources as possible. And parents have to really look at what matters most to them. Is it office hours in the evening? Is it an office that is very close to where they live? It’s important to talk to the doctor and get a sense of whether this is really someone they feel they can trust and take their kids to and feel comfortable.

So, rapport between the parents and doctor is important?

It’s very important because you have to have good communication, to be able to trust their judgment and to trust that they will listen to what you’re saying, even if they disagree with you.

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