Office Policies & FAQ

FAQs

A Southwest Pediatric physician or nurse practitioner is available for phone consultation 24/7, 365 days a year, even when the office is closed. We have convenient extended hours care from 5-8 pm Monday through Friday and on Saturdays from 8 to noon.  We have thoughtfully chosen services to help you care for your children when they are acutely ill. You do not need to call any special number to reach our after-hour services. Please call our normal office number and follow the prompts for “medical advice” and you will be automatically routed to our after-hours services. Further details on after hours services are found here.

What is your vaccination policy?

We do not accept patients whose parents have chosen to not vaccinate and do not accept patients who will be vaccinated on a “slow” schedule. We believe that vaccines are safe, effective, and one of the best choices a parent can make for their children. Our practice follows the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Exceptions are made, of course, for children who can not be vaccinated for medical reasons. We do not require vaccination against flu or Human Papillomavirus (HPV), though we think these vaccines are also extremely important and valuable.

Vaccines are scheduled in concert with well checks and we make it easy to stay up to date as long as you are keeping current with the well check schedule.

We’ll talk about each vaccine and possible side effects each time your child receives vaccines. You have access to the “Vaccine Information Sheet” for every vaccine we give in our RESOURCE section on this website. Feel free to check these at and ask any questions you may have. A print out of these forms are always available upon request.

It might be helpful for you to know that we also require all of our employees to be vaccinated against diseases that can be shared with our patients (measles and influenza, for example).

Do you have separate waiting rooms for sick and well children?

Separate sections, yes. Completely separate waiting rooms? No, because studies show that separate waiting rooms do not really reduce the spread of disease. We can’t always know when we’re contagious, and parents don’t always do a perfect job of keeping their “sick” child out of the “well area.”

The bigger question is really, how do we reduce the spread of infection in the waiting areas?

We do our best to get you out of the waiting area quickly and into your own exam room. Feel free to wash hands or use hand sanitizer in the exam rooms.
You’ll notice that the well area has the toys, while the sick area does not. We ask parents to keep their sick kids in the sick kid area. We also don’t have toys in the exam rooms to reduce the spread of infection. We compromised by having books & you can wipe them down if you like. Feel free to bring your own toys, books or other entertainment as well.

We have both sanitizing wipes that are safe to use on toys and hands to wipe down the toys prior to and after use, hand sanitizer and soap/sinks in every exam room. Masks area available on request if your child has a cough. Please feel free to use any of these tools.

Patients who present with rashes that we think might be contagious (measles, chicken pox) are brought through an alternative entrance and placed in isolation until cleared by a physician. If your child has a suspicious rash, call ahead and we’ll walk you through this process.

What is your philosophy of antibiotic use?

Antibiotics are amazing when used judiciously and appropriately. In general we really do try to be conservative, within reason. Overuse of antibiotics, however, is a real threat to our ability to treat infection into the future. “Superbugs” are created in part by irresponsible use of antibiotics – using them too often, using too broad a spectrum of antibiotic, or stopping them inappropriately.

One of the advantages of staying with your “medical home” for sick visits is that because over time we have developed a trusting relationship with each other, we can make well informed choices given your level of concern, your child’s history and our ability to follow an infection over time. Most ear infections and sinus infections will clear up without any antibiotics at all, but it’s not always wise to wait and see. If a child is more vulnerable, has had recurrent infections, or there is a more frail sibling at home that needs to be protected, sometimes we lean toward treating if we would otherwise be on the fence.

What about circumcision?

We support your choice whether or not you circumcise your son. This link is a good explanation from the American Academy of Pediatrics regarding reasons why you may choose to circumcise or not: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/prenatal/decisions-to-make/Pages/Circumcision.aspx

If you do choose to circumcise your son, we recommend that you have the procedure done in the hospital if possible. It is generally easier on you and the baby if you do. If circumcision can not be completed in the hospital, however, we DO offer circumcision in our office. We need to see your baby for their first visit, usually about day 2-4 of life, and we’ll make sure that circumcision is appropriate. If so, we’ll schedule it before 2 weeks of age. We use a local anesthetic and other comfort measures to make it as comfortable as possible.

How do I register my child as a patient?

Babies on the Way

You don’t have to do anything special to register as a patient if you’re expecting. When you check into the hospital or birthing center to deliver, just tell them you’ll be following up with Southwest Pediatrics, or you can name the physician specifically if you know. Once you’re preparing for discharge, the provider who is taking care of your baby will let you know when you need to be seen in follow up. This is generally 1-3 days after discharge depending on the needs of your baby. Give us a call when you know when you need your baby to be seen. All paperwork that we need you to fill out will be sent to you electronically when you make the first appointment. It is easier to do this at home for most patients, but you can fill it out at your first appointment too. You’ll need to come in 15-20 minutes early to get this done.

Babies/Kids Already Here

We don’t require to come in for a “establish care” visit but you’re welcome to do so if you would like. This kind of visit is not necessary for a healthy child, but if your child has a more complex medical history, this is a good way to catch us up on those issues. We also don’t require you to have “well check” first – your first visit may be for a visit for illness or injury. PLEASE obtain medical records from your previous provider. At a minimum, we need a vaccine record. Extra bonus points for growth charts (or a table of their heights/weights at check ups) and correspondence from any specialists you may have seen. A complete record is always ideal.

A couple of caveats:

Existing patients DO get priority, so if you know you want to be our patient, set up a visit to let us get to know your child, especially in the winter months when schedules are tight.

We will not set up nurse visits (vaccines, PPD/TB skin test, weight checks) unless a child has been seen and established care with a physician first.

What do I need to make my first appointment?

Babies on the Way

When you check into the hospital or birthing center to deliver, just tell them you’ll be following up with Southwest Pediatrics, or you can name the physician specifically if you know. Once you’re preparing for discharge, the provider who is taking care of your baby will let you know when you need to be seen in follow up. This is generally 1-3 days after discharge depending on the needs of your baby.

Give us a call when you know when you need your baby to be seen. We will collect insurance information on the phone if at all possible so we can make sure we are in your network, etc. All paperwork that we need you to fill out will be sent to you electronically when you make the first appointment. It is easier to do this at home for most patients, but you can fill it out at your first appointment too. You’ll need to come in 15-20 minutes early to get this done.

PLEASE bring anything the hospital has already given you. We will also request the medical records for follow up, but your papers usually get there first.

For most newborns, we’ll be checking into common problems like jaundice, feeding issues and any complications that may have happened in the hospital. Your baby will have a comprehensive examination and we’ll do any necessary testing. We’ll trouble shoot breastfeeding problems and consider whether we need to invite a lactation consultant onto the team. We’ll set goals for the next visit and schedule visits as needed.

We’ll also take a family history and you can ask any questions that you might have.

Babies/Kids Already Here

We don’t require to come in for a “establish care” visit but you’re welcome to do so if you would like. This kind of visit is not necessary for a healthy child, but if your child has a more complex medical history, this is a good way to catch us up on those issues. We also don’t require you to have “well check” first – your first visit may be for a visit for illness or injury. PLEASE obtain medical records from your previous provider. At a minimum, we need a vaccine record. Extra bonus points for growth charts (or a table of their heights/weights at check ups) and correspondence from any specialists you may have seen. A complete record is always ideal. At your first visit we’ll take a family history and make sure we have a good understanding of the medical issues you are most concerned about.

What type of labs & x-rays do you provide? Where are they performed?

We perform a variety of tests in our office and only send you to an off-site lab (CPL, LabCorp, Quest) when absolutely necessary. Most blood work that children will need can be performed with a “capillary” blood draw (finger or heel poke) and we draw those in our office and send it off to the lab for you. This applies to blood counts, newborn screening tests, bilirubin/jaundice levels. Only if there is a need for more extensive blood work (drawn from a vein) will we send you to a lab.

Besides capillary blood work, we do many bedside lab tests such as rapid strep, flu and RSV tests. We also perform urine analysis.

We do not do X-rays in the office; we think that radiation is best left to the professionals. Most plain X-rays are referred to Austin Radiological Association; we can help you find the best location for your child depending on the type of imaging we are doing. We also sometimes use Dell Imaging Center at the Dell Children’s Hospital for very specific tests, including certain ultrasound and fluoroscopy studies and when sedation is needed.

How do you stay up-to-date with research?

Each of our physicians is Board Certified by the American Board of Pediatrics, the highest level of certification a pediatrician can obtain. A pediatrician can only be Board Certified after 3 years of post-graduate training and passing a rigorous exam; recertification is required every 7-10 days with an exam or other assessments.

The Texas State Board of Medical Examiners requires 48 hrs every two years of additional Continuing Medical Education, of which at least 2 hours must be focused on professional ethics or child abuse.

All of our physicians maintain memberships in the American Academy of Pediatrics, which helps guide protocols and best practices for a huge variety of issues in our field.

Finally, through our founding membership in Austin Health Partners, we are able to keep each other current and even cutting edge in many ways. AHP has allowed us as a relatively small practice to provide mental health services to our patients within our clinic and provide cutting edge asthma care that is often only available with a specialist.

What Is Austin Health Partners?

Austin Health Partners (AHP) is a collaboration of several similar independent practices in the Austin area. We are founding members. This collaboration was borne out of a desire to remain independent in a very challenging medical environment, and share ideas and resources to serve our patients in ways usually associated with a large, corporate medical group. AHP has allowed us to utilize a much more robust electronic health record and start fantastic initiatives into our practice like integrated mental health. Other additional initiatives are in the works.

The beauty of AHP is that we are still us. We practice how we want to: personalized, individualized care without the chains of corporate medicine. With our like-minded partners we get to do cool stuff without sacrificing our core values.

What do I do If my child gets sick after hours?

A Southwest Pediatric physician or nurse practitioner is available for phone consultation 24/7, 365 days a year, even when the office is closed. We have thoughtfully chosen services to help you care for your children when they are acutely ill. You do not need to call any special number to reach our after-hour services. Please call our normal office number and follow the prompts for “medical advice” and you will be automatically routed to our after-hours services. Specific details on after hours services are found here.

Consider using our “Symptom Checker” which is a fantastic free resource provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics that can walk you through a lot of common questions and problems.

Policies

Our patients deserve clear communication and that is certainly our goal.  From time to time, we will have you sign acknowledgement forms so that we know that we’re all on the same page.  Most of the more sticky issues we run into involve lack of understanding of financial issues with insurance companies, so we encourage you to closely pay attention to the details in your specific policy.  We want you to have as few financial surprises as possible.  What you see below is the most recent list of acknowledgements that our patients review and sign. Please visit our FAQs for more information or contact us if you have questions.

We are dedicated to providing the best possible care, and we want to make sure you completely understand our office policies. If you have any concerns please feel free to contact the practice administrator.

Financial Policy Acknowledgement: 

All payments are due at the time of service. This includes co-pays and deductibles. If we are providers for your insurance, we will bill your insurance and collect only the patient responsibility amount at the time of service. IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO INFORM US OF ANY CHANGES WITH YOUR INSURANCE. Many insurance plans have “timely filing deadlines.” If we are not provided with accurate information at the time of service, you may be responsible for payment in full for all services rendered. Please keep in mind that your insurance is a contract between you and the insurance company. Not all insurances cover all procedures. While we make a good faith attempt to verify coverage, we are not able to guarantee that the information given to us by you or your insurance is correct. It is your responsibility to know what services may or may not be covered by your insurance. Austin Health Partners has preferred provider contracts with most major insurance companies. Please contact your insurance company to determine if our practice has a contract with your insurance company. Any financial portion that is the “member’s responsibility” such as a co-pay, deductible, co-insurance, or non-covered percentage will be collected at the time service. It is required as a part of our contract with each insurance company to collect the patient’s financial portion at the time of service.

Uninsured Patients: 

Patients without insurance will be offered a Prompt Pay Discount only if balance due is paid in full at the time of service. If balance cannot be paid in full at time of service, a payment plan will be established and you will be assessed the full amount due without any discounts.

Payments:

We accept cash, debit cards, Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, and personal checks. Any outstanding balances are due within 30 days of the statement. If payment is not received within 45 days a $25 administrative fee will be assessed on the account. All balances reaching 90 days past due may be sent to a collection agency. If you experience circumstances beyond your control, please contact our billing office and we will be happy to make payment arrangements.

Convenient Auto-Payment: 

Retain your credit card on file in a safe encrypted environment. This feature is available to ensure all of your payments are received on time and helps you avoid administrative fees if paid after 45 days. By enrolling in Convenient Auto-Payment, we can use to collect copays and bill your insurance first and notify you via email 5 days before your credit card is charged for balances due.

Third Party Payers:

Our office does not bill third party payers (TPA), such as, PIP (Personal Injury Protection) for a motor vehicle accident, or attorneys.

Family Members without appointments:

We respectfully ask that you refrain from asking your doctor to examine family members that do not have appointments. This prevents us from properly documenting the visit in the medical record, as well as prevents us from seeing the next scheduled patients on time. If you know prior to your scheduled appointment we will do everything we can to try and work you in with your provider or another available provider.

Divorce Decree: 

We are not party to your divorce decree. The responsibility for payment and the presentation of active insurance cards at the time of service is the responsibility of the accompanying adult.

Returned Checks: 

Checks returned to us by the bank will be assessed a returned check fee of $35.00 in addition to the original amount of the check.

Missed Appointments: 

We understand there will be times when a scheduled appointment cannot be kept. If you need to cancel or reschedule an appointment, we request that you notify our office 24 hours in advance. If your appointment is made for “same day” and you find yourself unable to keep it, please call to cancel within a minimum of three hours-notice in order for another child to be scheduled. If you do not call and you do not show up for your appointment, we will consider this a “no show.” If this happens 3 times the office may terminate the doctor-patient relationship.

Vaccine Policy: 

Our practice follows CDC vaccine recommendations. Our physicians do not accept patients who do not vaccinate their children. We also do not accept alternate vaccine schedules, for example Dr. Sear’s vaccine schedule.

Termination from our Practice: 

Our office values its patient relationship and wants to protect patients’ rights. We will terminate the patient relationship with cause and after careful consideration. Reasons for termination include: repeatedly not showing up for scheduled appointments, not complying with recommended medical care, not complying with company vaccine policy, requesting medical records to be transferred to another provider, being hostile or abusive to staff, not paying bills or requesting budget payment plan in a timely manner.

After Hours Services: 

If you need medical assistance after 5:00pm or on the weekend, we do provide after hour phone call services There is a nominal fee of $20.00 for these calls. If seen during Saturday clinic hours or after 5pm a fee of $10 will be charged.

Medical Records & Form Fees: 

We will provide copies of your medical records within 15 business days of receipt of signed records release and the nominal charge for your records. There are also nominal fees for forms such as insurance forms, school forms, FMLA, disability forms, etc. These forms will be completed within 5-7 business days. Fees must be paid prior to completion of any form. Fees are set forth by the State of Texas and the Texas Medical Board.