You can do a lot to make sure your child gets the best care possible when you go the doctor's office or hospital. When you work closely with your child's health care team, it leads to better health outcomes, such as:
fewer medical mistakes
shorter hospital stays
shorter recovery time
fewer emergency department visits
less anxiety in children and their families
faster access to care and resources.
Caring for sick children, especially those with special health care needs, can be difficult. A trip to the doctor or the hospital can be stressful for the whole family. But knowing more ways to be ready for the appointment, and how to best use your time with the doctor, can help take away some of the stress.
Get ready for your child's next doctor visit by using this checklist:
Before your visit
☐ Get organized and ready
- Know your child's
health story. This includes their medical history, current medications, any allergies, and information for other doctors they go to.
- Let the doctor's office or hospital know if you need an interpreter. It helps to talk to the doctor in the language you know best.
- Bring a list of the medications your child takes, including how much and how often you are giving them. Make sure to mark down if there are any new changes to how your child is taking the medicine.
- Write down any questions you have for the doctor ahead of time. This will help you remember to ask them during the appointment.
Tip: Keep a notepad handy at home between appointments for when you think of a question. Bring the notepad with you so you have a place to write down what the doctor says. Circle the questions that are most important to you and ask those first in case you do not make it through your list in one visit with the doctor.
- Let the office know if your child needs any special help for the appointment. Call a day or two before the appointment to make sure that those things are ready when you arrive. Examples include if your child:
- is high risk of infectious diseases from a weakened immune system and needs limited time in waiting room.
- gets especially nervous at visits and needs to modifying parts of the appointment to decrease anxiety.
- needs extra help getting into and throughout the building due to medical equipment.
During your visit
☐ Take an active part in the appointment
- Write down the answers to your questions.
- Ask questions if you do not understand something.
- Use your own words to tell the doctor what you understand, then ask the doctor if you understand the information correctly.
- If you are given a new medication or new medical equipment (like an asthma inhaler/spacer or a nebulizer), you can:
- ask if there is a video the doctor can send that you or others caring for your child can look at later.
- ask if you can take pictures or video record the doctor showing you how to give the medicine or use the equipment.
- ask your doctor to write out the instructions, or give you a handout with the instructions that you can take home with you.
- Tell the doctor, nurse, or someone on your care team what you need to keep your child and family safe and healthy. For example:
- Be honest & direct, but respectful, with your doctor.
- Do you feel your questions and concerns are being taken care of? If not, tell your doctor why you do not feel heard.
- Work with your doctor to make decisions together.
- Share what you think is best for your child.
- Be willing to listen to what the doctor thinks and be willing to work with them to find the best thing to do.
- Ask about other things you can do for your child, like other medicines or treatments?
- At the end of your visit, ask for an "After-Visit Summary." This will show you information about the visit, like:
- the reason for your visit
- any changes to your child's medications
- any new treatments
- information on new doctors that your child may need to see
- any changes or problems to watch for
After your visit
☐ Follow up with your child's doctor after appointments, if needed.
Does your doctor need to know how your child is doing after a certain amount of time?
Were appointments made for other doctors that your child should see?
Were other appointments made for treatments your child needs?
If you still have concerns, do not be afraid to go to another doctor to find out what they think (get a "second opinion").
For children with special health care needs
You know the needs of your child best. Before you make your child's first appointment with a doctor, you can ask to meet with them ahead of time to find someone just right for your child. Start your search
- Simply ask the doctor, "Do you have experience treating other patients like my child?"
- Is the doctor willing to help your child get other things they need or could benefit from, such as specialized therapies or community groups that improve quality of life?
- Does the office have someone whose job it is to helps make sure the different doctors caring for your child communicate well with one another (this person is sometimes called a "care coordinator")?
Developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Quality Improvement and Patient Safety Executive Committee and their Family Liaisons, Courtney Parker and Karl Maurer.