How to Find the Perfect Pediatrician: An Interview with Diana Montgomery, MD

Choosing a pediatrician to entrust with your child’s health can be a daunting experience. After all, you are entrusting this doctor with caring for the most important person in your world—your child. When making this important decision, you want to ensure that you and your chosen pediatrician see eye to eye on the issues that are important to you, and to verify that they are fully qualified and experienced enough to handle any health related situation that comes your way. But with so much to think about, how can you be certain you are making the right choice when it comes to your child’s health?

Chirp recently caught up with local pediatrician Diana Montgomery, MD. Practicing since 2002, Dr. Montgomery has 13 years of medical experience as well as five children of her own. She currently practices through Private Medical in San Francisco, providing local families with concierge medical services. Here, Dr. Montgomery explains how to make the process of choosing a pediatrician for your child as painless as possible.

Chirp: Where should parents begin their search for a pediatrician?

Dr. Montgomery: Family, friends, co-workers, your obstetrician—ask around and see who they take their kids to. Are they happy with their choice? What do they like about their pediatrician and their pediatrician's office? What do they wish could be better? This may help you generate a list of practices to investigate further and maybe some to skip. Online forums and websites can be great—but don't believe everything you read. Recommendations from people that you know and trust are likely to be much more reliable.

Chirp: Should parents look for certain credentials when choosing a pediatrician?

Dr. Montgomery: Pediatricians should be board-certified by the American Board of Pediatrics. Other than that, I think fit is more important that impressive schools. I think it’s important for parents to think through whether they want someone younger (fresher) or older (more experienced). An older pediatrician may be great—but you wouldn’t want to choose someone too close to retirement since you’ll have to find someone new then. Bottom line is thinking about what style is going to work for you as a guide through babyhood and childhood.

Chirp: Are there important personality characteristics to consider in a pediatrician?

Dr. Montgomery: Really knowing whether your baby's soon-to-be doctor will work for you requires a conversation with the pediatrician, either by phone or in person. Here again, there is no right or wrong answer. Some parents prefer a dialogue with their doctor about various treatment options—others prefer to have a doctor who calls the shots. I suggest asking a question and seeing how the doctor answers. Ask about their advice on sleep training an infant or how they support breastfeeding or what their take is on circumcision. What they answer is probably less important than how they answer. Is this a doctor you trust to guide you through babyhood and beyond?

Chirp: How can I ensure that my pediatrician is readily available for emergencies?

Dr. Montgomery: What if you have a question for the doctor outside of a regularly scheduled visit—or your baby needs to be seen after hours? Find out how this works. If you call the doctor's office for advice, who calls you back—and how quickly—during business hours and beyond? Some practices have a nurse available by phone but require that you make an appointment in order to speak with your doctor. Other practices will have your doctor respond to non-urgent medical questions during the day, but have an after-hours advice line staffed by nurses who relay messages to an on-call doctor as needed. Some doctors take their own calls after hours. If your child needs to be seen for an illness, are you likely to see your regular doctor or whoever is available in the practice? You may be comfortable with a large practice and lots of different faces—or you may prefer more consistency. If your child needs to be seen in the evening or over the weekend, know whether your office has extended hours or has an after-hours clinic that they refer to.

Chirp: What are the benefits of concierge medical services?

Dr. Montgomery: If you are willing and able to pay a fee that is over and above what your insurance reimburses, concierge practices and private doctors provide greater access to your physician—and even house calls. So think about your needs, and make sure that your pediatrician's office is set up to provide care in a way that works for you. No parent should feel left alone to worry about their baby without support from their baby's doctor.

For more information about Dr. Montgomery’s concierge medical services, contact her office at 415-830-3090.