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Pediatrics Group Stresses Parental Involvement

< Feb. 01, 2012 > -- Parents should be central to a child's medical care, the American Academy of Pediatrics says.

Although this approach might seem obvious to most parents, the AAP issued a new policy statement this week on parental involvement. The policy calls for young patients, their parents, and their health care providers to become partners in care.

Photo of mother and daughter talking with doctor

"It's incorporating where the family stands, its belief systems, to help in making decisions," says Jerrold Eichner, M.D., co-author of the statement.

Open communication

The policy, published in the February issue of the journal Pediatrics, urges doctors to offer parents support and to respect their preferences about care. Doctors should communicate openly with children and teenagers about their condition, the policy says.

In hospitals, the policy says, doctors should conduct their rounds with the family and the nursing staff present. Parents should have the option to be present during medical procedures.

Cultural sensitivity is also important, Dr. Eichner says. "If a patient or family has a cultural or personal aversion, they may not tell you; they just won't comply with the treatment," he says.

Joint effort

The policy also says that patients and families should be included on task forces, advisory councils, and committees to improve patient safety, and as leaders of peer-support programs.

The new policy was praised by Karen Herzog, who helped found Sophia's Garden Foundation, an organization that helps families with children who have life-threatening conditions.

"It's imperative that professional organizations like the AAP and the American Medical Association take a firm stand on patient- and family-centered care," Herzog says. "We need to work in partnership to improve our health outcomes together."

Broader focus needed

But Herzog says she wished the policy placed more emphasis on pediatric care in the home, and on families of children with special needs.

Also missing is a strong recognition of health information technology, Herzog says. "The policy talks about the flow of information. [But] there's nothing about electronic medical records."

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Finding a Pediatrician

Many pediatricians offer a special time for parents to come and visit the office, learn about the doctors and staff, and ask questions. You may or may not be charged for this visit.

Here is some information to explore:

  • Ask about the pediatrician's training and experience. Does he or she have a specialty or area of interest? Is the doctor board-certified, and if so, has he or she re-certified recently?

  • Ask about the pediatrician's opinion on immunization, use of medications, particularly antibiotics and over-the-counter medications. Does he or she prescribe medications over the phone?

  • Will your child see the same pediatrician for all visits?

  • What happens if your child gets sick in the night or on weekends? Whom do you call?

As you talk with the pediatrician and the office staff, you will develop a sense of whether they have the same philosophy of child rearing as you do. You can also talk with other parents to find out their experiences and recommendations.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

Online Resources

(Our Organization is not responsible for the content of Internet sites.)

American Academy of Family Physicians - Choosing a Family Doctor

American Academy of Pediatrics - How to Choose a Pediatrician

Pediatrics - Patient- and Family-Centered Care and the Pediatrician's Role