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, 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
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.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 62,000 primary
care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical
specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children,
adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org.