November marks the start of the holiday season, a time when we think about coming home to spend time with family. It’s also a good time to consider the question: Does your family have a solid health care home?
When Dr. Suzanne Richman started KidsChoice Pediatrics almost 20 years ago, she set out to care for children and families in a warm and nurturing environment.
“We want to be a welcoming place,” Richman says. “We want to build a long-term relationship with our patients. We have the privilege of being part of your family for 20-plus years.”
That approach has built such trust with families that Richman and her team are now seeing what she calls “grand-patients”—children who are the children of some of her original patients.
Care that fits your family’s lifestyle
Healthcare has changed a lot in the two decades KidsChoice has been open. Parents have an increasing number of options for seeking medical care for their children through urgent care and similar facilities. But Richman said the risk of hopping from one urgent-care visit to another is that parents and children lose the shared knowledge and strong relationship that is built with a pediatrician over years. When a doctor and her team know your child’s health history and basic details about your family’s lifestyle and circumstances, the result is a more personalized—and often more effective—level of care.
“Knowing our patients and their parents really helps us to tailor our approach,” Richman says. “For example, if I know that someone is a single mom with a lot on her plate, it’s not realistic to ask that parent to follow an intense and involved treatment program, so we need to get creative about other ways to care for the child. When someone knows who you are and what your struggles are, we can accommodate your care to fit that.”
A strong relationship supports holistic health care
Well-child visits are an important part of pediatric care. If a doctor has never seen your child until he or she is sick, it’s a lot harder to gauge the level of discomfort the child is in. This is even more true with mental health. Pediatricians do screen for mental health at well visits, and the better they know your child, the more effectively they can do this.
“Sometimes you have taken care of a child for years and you know this cheerful child, and suddenly you can see changes,” Richman said. “If you don’t know him or her, you might think this is just a quiet kiddo, but having that relationship gives you better perspective, along with the foundation of trust to be able to ask questions and find out what may be going on.”
Growing smart health care consumers
In her practice, Richman sees children from birth—or even before, as her office offers prenatal consultations—to about the time a child graduates from college. While parents tend to do most of the talking in younger children’s appointments, children are increasingly given the opportunity to advocate for themselves and speak in confidence with the doctor as they approach their teenage years. This transition is much more effective and comfortable when the child and parents have an established relationship with their pediatrician.
“It’s important for children to understand that this is their healthcare,” Richman says. “We as parents always talk for our kids, but the child needs to feel that they are part of it, too. And sometimes they have questions they may not want to ask in front of mom or dad. These can be simple questions, like they are worried about something about their body or their life. I have also had LGBTQ+ patients have questions and concerns, and they need to have a safe place to talk about those. It really helps show children the value of having an ongoing relationship with a healthcare provider, which sets them up for better adult health practices.”
A pediatrician who knows you can pave a smoother path to specialized care
When it’s time to see a specialist, the health history your pediatrician has can help her make the case for that visit clear to your insurer. It can also help the doctor to identify the appropriate specialist, and help the specialist understand the urgency of seeing your child.
“We really go out of our way to follow up on things and help facilitate our patients getting the care they need,” Richman says. “We will call and talk with the specialist and really go the extra mile to get them what they need.”
In difficult times, a pediatrician can steer families toward solid information
Over the past 19 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, parents have been bombarded with a torrent of information coming from many sources. This has caused anxiety and worry for many parents and children. At KidsChoice, Richman and her team have fielded countless questions from families in their care about every aspect of pandemic life with children.
“Last year was really hard on people trying to decide how they were going to do school,” she says. “I had parents really agonizing over balancing their children’s academic needs versus their fear of exposure.”
Having an established relationship with a pediatrician gives you a place to go with these struggles in a public health crisis. It gives you access to a caregiver who knows you and your family and can help you walk through a risk assessment with information from trusted sources within the medical community.
Now is an important time to catch up with your child’s well visits and immunizations if they have lapsed during the pandemic. Schedule a consultation for your child, or a prenatal visit with KidsChoice Pediatrics at 540-710-6006, or visit kidschoicepeds.net for more information.