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How to Choose Your Family Physician or Pediatrician

Looking for a pediatric or family doctor in Des Moines? Follow these steps to find the right provider for you and yours.


Finding a primary care provider is one of the most important decisions you can make for yourself and your family. When you have a relationship with your provider, your family is more likely to get preventative care and less likely to end up in the hospital. With dozens of family physicians and pediatricians in the Des Moines area, how do you choose the best doctor for your family?

Do your homework! There are many things to take into consideration — location, recommendations, insurance network — but ultimately, you want someone you feel comfortable with and trust to visit in your times of need for years to come.

Search for a family physician or pediatrician near you.

Your search should start before you have a need. The last thing you want to do is make a hasty decision when you have an urgent health issue or need to name a primary care provider on your insurance. Ideally, you should look for a family physician before you move or shortly after you arrive in a new city.

Mom and young childIf you’re selecting a family physician or pediatrician for a new baby, start the search process early on in your pregnancy. Your doctor will visit your baby in the hospital in the first day after birth. Your baby will have the first of many appointments a few days after that.

5 Tips for Finding a Physician

Obviously, you need to find a doctor in the Des Moines area. You can’t expect to travel to a physician further away when someone in your family is sick or injured. A primary care physician is the hub of your family’s healthcare so it’s critical to have one who knows the other hospitals, clinics, pharmacies and specialists in your community.

These five tips can help you start a search from scratch and reach an informed decision:

1. Locate your nearest hospitals and clinics.

Location is a factor but it shouldn’t be the most important one. But you may desire to have a physician conveniently located near your home or work — or your children’s school or daycare. Make sure the clinics offer the services your family needs, like Family Medicine, Primary Care, Pediatrics and Urgent Care, and that the clinic hours fit your schedule.

2. Talk to your friends, family and neighbors.

Get recommendations from the people you know and trust. If they have great relationships with their providers, chances are, you will like them too. Some good referrals can quickly narrow down your list.

3. Read physician profiles, online rankings and reviews.

New providers come to the metro every year and your network will not have experiences with everyone. Head to clinic websites and trusted review sites to learn more about the doctors on your shortlist. Look at their credentials, board certifications, clinical interests, admitting hospitals and biography. Gain more insight by reading other people’s experiences with each provider.

4. Check your insurance network.

One of the main benefits of having a primary care provider is that some services are completely covered by insurance. Physicals, immunizations, screenings and other preventative care are commonly free. But you’ll still find yourself at the clinic for other health issues and the cost of your care may vary depending on if a provider is considered in-network or out-of-network. Contact your insurance company for a complete list of providers in and out of your network to make sure your top choices are covered.

5. Schedule an office visit.

Once you feel more comfortable with a few family physicians or pediatricians, schedule some time to visit the clinic and chat. Many providers make room for new patients in their busy days for introductory visits. A face-to-face meeting is sometimes the only way to establish trust and truly feel comfortable with someone. And by visiting the clinic, you’ll also get a feel for the environment, staff and the rest of the healthcare team.

Prepare questions to ask your prospective doctor.

After you’ve scheduled visits with your potential family physician or pediatrician, do a little prep work to make the most of your time with them. Yeah, you want to make sure they are friendly and make you feel comfortable. But you should use this time to get additional information specific to your family’s healthcare needs, especially if you or someone in your family has a chronic condition.

Ask all prospective family physicians and pediatricians these questions:

  1. What are your office hours?
  2. How long is the typical wait for an appointment?
  3. Does this practice use a team-based approach for coverage when you’re unavailable?
  4. Which other providers work in this clinic?
  5. Do you have experience treating my/my child’s condition?
  6. How do you communicate with patients?
  7. What other common services or lab tests can be done in this location?
  8. Do you or clinic staff handle health-related questions during or after office hours?
  9. Who handles a healthcare emergency for me or my family?
  10. What are your referral policies?
  11. What are your payment policies?

Choose the best doctor for you and your family.

Finding a family physician or pediatrician that checks all the boxes is a personal choice. Even if you’ve got a great recommendation from a friend, your preferences and your family’s needs are different.

Go with the primary care provider you feel the best about. You may not feel 100 percent confident in your decision at first. But remember, it takes time to develop a relationship with your provider. A family physician or pediatrician will be your point person for the health and wellness of your family for years. Over time, you’ll develop a deeper relationship and comfort with your provider, and they will gain a deeper understanding of your family’s medical history to serve as your health resource and advocate.

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