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Selecting a Specialist

Dr. Tam in consultation with family

Hearing that your child has a heart condition is scary and emotional. Suddenly you're overwhelmed with decisions about medical care–one of the most important of which is choosing a specialist. But where do you begin?

While the heart conditions in children, teens and young adults may have the same name as those in grownups, the approach to treatment may be very different. For starters, the size of the heart is different-smaller and constantly growing, changing and developing. Choosing a board-certified pediatric heart specialist ensures that your child's doctor has highly specialized training both in your child's diagnosis and in treating that diagnosis specifically in kids, teens and right into adulthood.

Where do you start?

A good place to begin your search is with your pediatrician. He or she is familiar with your child, your family and your child's diagnosis and prognosis. Your pediatrician also knows which doctors specialize in your child's ailment and who is up to date on the most advanced treatments and care. It is alright to ask for more than one recommendation to ensure that you are able to find the specialist that who can best meet your child's and your family's needs.

Friends, family and even coworkers are good resources as well. Even if they don't have experience with your child's condition, they may know people who have gone through what you're experiencing. If there is a pediatric medical center near you, you may also want to check their website to learn more about the specialists there.

Once you have compiled a list of specialists you feel comfortable with you will want to schedule interview appointments and take along a list of questions to ask each specialist. When you call the specialist's office, be sure to let the receptionist know that you are scheduling an interview appointment.

Questions to ask the specialist

It helps to make a list of the things that are important to you and your child before your interview appointment. The following questions provide a good starting point. You will probably have questions unique to your child's condition so you will want to add them to the list as well.

  • Is the specialist board-certified in pediatric cardiology?
  • Does he or she treat your child's specific diagnosis?
  • Based on your child's diagnosis, will you need more than one type of specialist?
  • Is there is a support group where you can talk to other parents whose children have the same diagnosis as your child?
  • Is there an affiliation with a heart center?
  • How long has the doctor been in practice?
  • How many patients with your child's condition does the doctor treat each year?
  • Does the doctor have access to the most current research, technologies and treatments?
  • How easy is it to reach the doctor? Will you have after-hours and weekend access?
  • During your consult/interview, did the doctor answer your questions? How well did the doctor relate to your child? Did he or she explain things in a way that you could understand?
  • Does the doctor consider the family as part of the health care team?
  • Will you be included in treatment and care decisions?
  • What if the heart center is far from home? Is there a social services team to help with locating resources such as transportation, lodging and financial assistance?

Again, these questions are a good starting point but please add any additional questions you may have that are important to your decision-making process.

We're here to help.

If your child has been diagnosed, you probably have lots of questions. We can help. If you would like to schedule an appointment, refer a patient or speak to our staff, please call our offices at 682-885-2140.