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Why the AAP wants you to stay away from retail based clinics

This month, the American Academy of Pediatrics published a Policy Statement entitled “AAP Principles Concerning Retail-Based Clinics” in its journal Pediatrics. According to the AAP, parents should stay away from these common clinics.

In short, the AAP states, “The American Academy of Pediatrics views retail-based clinics (RBCs) as an inappropriate source of primary care for pediatric patients, as they fragment medical care and are detrimental to the medical home concept of longitudinal and coordinated care.”

Retail based clinics are popping up everywhere. They are frequently opening inside major chain superstores and drugstores and claim to be appropriate for minor complaints common to adult and pediatric patients. They may cost less than a visit to your pediatrician and often have little to no waiting time. So what is the AAP’s problem?

To understand why the AAP wants families to stay out of RBCs, you first need to understand the concept of the “medical home.” Your child’s medical home is the place where a doctor knows everything he or she needs to know about your baby, from prenatal history through birth and up to the present day. The medical home doctor knows about your child’s immunization history, the details of their home life, what medicines they have taken in the past, allergies, their illnesses, and their development. These details are obviously important for any child with a chronic medical issue but are also important for our healthiest patients. Having all the details helps doctors make the most accurate medical diagnosis and choose the right medications.

In addition, each visit to your medical home allows the doctor to treat whatever is bothering the child in that moment but also to check up on any outstanding concerns. For example, yesterday I treated a rash in a 10-year-old boy. The rash was his only complaint, but I was able to tell from his chart that he also needed a flu vaccine and that his asthma medications needed to be refilled. I treated a baby for a mild cold, but was also able to check in on the progress of their torticollis treatment. I treated a toddler for a fever and learned that the parents were divorcing, allowing me to offer counseling services and a sympathetic ear.

Many parents tell me that they use the RBCs on off-hours or weekends, but parents need to be aware that most pediatricians have weekend hours, and many will come in to see your child if they are concerned. Same-day appointments are also available, and many offices have walk-in hours to help families get seen quickly. We always ask our patients to call us if their child is sick after hours and on weekends as we can help them decide if a visit is necessary. Sometimes, we can help you avoid a visit simply by talking on the phone. So the message is this: if your child is ill, call us! We want to hear from you and if we can’t see you personally we will help you choose the right care for your child.

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About Dr. Sara Connolly, Bundoo Medical Director

Dr. Sara Connolly practices in Palm Beach County, Fla. She divides her time between private practice and working with incarcerated girls.

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