Families may decide to use a retail-based health clinic because they believe it is convenient and less expensive, but according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), these clinics do not provide children with the high-quality, regular preventive health care children need.
In an updated policy statement published in the March 2014 Pediatrics, the AAP emphasizes that retail-based clinics are an inappropriate source of primary care for children because they fragment children’s health care and do not support the medical home.
The policy statement, “AAP Principles Concerning Retail-Based Clinics” released online Feb. 24, updates the Academy’s 2006 policy statement, which expressed strong opposition to the use of retail-based clinics. The AAP acknowledges that the number of retail-based clinics has grown to more than 6,000 as of 2012. Surveys indicate 15 percent of children are likely to use a retail-based clinic in the future, although the majority of patients are adults.
“The AAP recognizes that convenience and access to care will continue to be important drivers of how health care is delivered,” said James Laughlin, MD, FAAP, lead author of the policy statement. “However, the expertise of the pediatrician and the medical home should continue to be recognized as the standard for care of children, and we encourage all AAP members to provide accessible hours and locations as part of a medical home.”
Pediatricians are specifically trained in child health issues. They know each child’s health history, and are best equipped to take care of both simple and complicated problems comprehensively within the medical home. As young patients and their health issues become more complex, the possibility arises that even a simple complaint may be related to a more serious, underlying condition that could be overlooked by someone who is less familiar with the patient, according to the AAP.
While the AAP believes the medical home is the optimal standard of care for pediatric patients, and does not recommend that parents use retail-based health clinics, it is understood that the services of these clinics may be used for acute care outside of the medical home. If parents choose to use a retail-based clinic for their child’s illness, they should ask if the clinic has a formal relationship with their pediatrician, if the clinic will communicate with the pediatrician about the visit, and what the protocol is for following up if the illness does not resolve or the clinic is closed. Parents should consider only using retail-based clinics that have a formal relationship with their child’s pediatrician.