When an adult is faced with a medical problem, it’s a simple choice—call the doctor and make an appointment. When a child is sick or hurt, it’s a necessity. Who better to care for a child in need than a qualified, certified pediatrician?
There’s another choice available for sick children. One that is based on need, cost and convenience. A Time Magazine article, “Pediatricians vs. Retail Clinics: Is It Time To Think Beyond The Office Visit?”reported the findings of a JAMA Pediatrics Journal that showed families chose pediatric retail clinics over the Pediatrician’s office because of convenience and price.
The study surveyed 1500 parents from Midwestern pediatrician offices. Seventy-four percent said they first chose to take their children to the pediatrician, but 37 percent took them to the retail clinic because the hours of operation were more convenient. Not only are they more convenient, they are cheaper than the doctor’s office. Run by nurse practitioners and physician assistants, the retail clinics can be 30 to 40 percent cheaper than the pediatrician. Convenience and lower cost is a tough combination to beat.
Naturally, pediatricians warn against the use of the clinics, questioning the quality of care. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) formerly opposed the clinics, saying they are not the best choice for children and infants, since the children may not see the same practitioner at each visit. This can affect the level of care and the important relationship building needed to effectively build trust and put children at ease.
Still more parents are choosing retail health clinics, like those in CVS, Walgreens and other large pharmacies, as reported in MedCity.com. In fact, they report that 25 percent of parents are choosing these retail clinics mainly for their convenience.
Keeping accurate medical records and coordinating services is another concern. The AAP cited several key issues:
- Limited services were one concern. They don’t have access to a child’s complete medical history, kept at the pediatrician’s office. They may be fine for treating sore throats and colds, but inadequate where more comprehensive information is needed for treating chronic conditions or for school medical exams.
- Practitioners at the retail clinics may have limited training in pediatric care. Symptoms in adults may indicate very different conditions when exhibited by children. Without training in pediatrics, children can be misdiagnosed or given the wrong course of treatment or medications.
- Retail clinics may be convenient during the day, but what happens if a child has a relapse in the evening? The opportunity for follow-up or emergency services is lacking with clinics that close at 6 p.m. or are limited over the weekends.
- The last concern is the lack of privacy. Clinics may not have private examining rooms, since they are less cost effective. Parents may not feel comfortable discussing their child’s medical conditions or family medical histories. Doctor’s offices are full of private examination rooms and a doctor’s office for consultations. In a retail clinic, you may share a large room with many others, seated on plastic chairs next to the grocery aisle.
Another innovation is Telehealth, a company that can be used to diagnose children’s medical symptoms over a video monitor. Using this technology, a Telehealth provider can check a child’s ears, throat and heart rate electronically. No need to bundle up a sick child, take her out in the cold or rain and spend time driving to the doctor’s office just to sit and wait to be seen. With a phone app, this technology will become even more accessible.
Convenience isn’t more important than quality of health care. But convenience is becoming a requirement for families used to information and solutions with a click on a smartphone or laptop. These innovative methods of healthcare delivery may become the new tradition for a new generation.
Photo Source: Freedigitalphotos.net