Sometimes you can’t get your child an appointment at the pediatrician’s office, or maybe you don’t like the idea of sitting in an emergency room for hours on end. While many parents turn to retail-based health clinics on an as-needed basis — like those at CVS, Walgreen’s or Kroger — the country’s largest group of pediatricians is warning parents not to rely solely on those clinic’s for a child’s primary care.
The reason being, says the American Academy of Pediatrics in its updated policy statement, is that having a pediatrician or a “medical home” for a patient is part of a long-term effort that’s carefully planned out to serve the child’s medical needs. Whereas CVS’ MinuteClinic or Walgreen’s Healthcare Clinic mainly fill in the gaps when a child’s doctor isn’t available, reports USA Today.
The basic message has stayed the same since the group’s 2006 statement, but it’s updating it now because “the number of clinics has grown and they are used much more,” says the lead author of the statement.
“If these entities are going to take care of children, there should be certain standards adhered to in terms of communicating back to the pediatrician or having some sort of relationship with a pediatrician locally so that a child can be referred back to their pediatrician for ongoing care,” he explains.
On the side of the RBCs, the trade group representing them says it’s not like clinics are trying to take the place of a pediatrician, just to fill in the gaps.
“They are a more convenient option for parents with sick children rather than the alternative, which is often waiting for an appointment while the child is sick or spending hours in a high-cost emergency room for a minor pediatric complaint,” says the executive director of the Convenience Care Association.
She adds that there are over 1,600 RBCs in 39 states and D.C. that have been visited by 20 million consumers to date, many of which are children.
The president of the largest chain of RBCs in the U.S. also says it’s just about providing a service when it’s needed. He notes that MinuteClinic will automatically provide referrals for patients without a pediatrician and will communicate back about the visit to the doctor, if the family allows it.
“MinuteClinic adheres to the principles (the AAP) outlines,” says he says. “We are very supportive of the medical home and the important role that the pediatrician plays, and we really see ourselves as complementary and supportive of that role.”
“We agree that the pediatrician should be the quarterback of the team, but we also think there’s an important role for walk-in-care that’s low cost and evidence-based,” he says.
To recap: Clinics can be great, but they can’t take the place of a pediatrician.
Docs oppose retail-based clinics for kids’ care [USA Today]