Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement advising parents against using the services of retail-based health clinics. While the AAP acknowledges that clinics provide convenient, less expensive care for parents, the organization also warns against using these locations for quality, routine healthcare for children.
With respect to the AAP, an urgent care’s responsibility is to provide quality care for those children who are experiencing acute or episodic care needs. The truth is, it’s not always possible to get into the pediatrician when a child needs to be seen immediately—but doesn’t require a trip to the ER.
Let’s take a closer look at some of AAP’s concerns with retail-based clinics:
The expectation that patients can go to the same clinic or physician their entire childhood is no longer a reality. Our on-the-go society has resulted in families moving more frequently—and even if the family doesn’t move, health systems frequently merge, go bankrupt, or are bought by a different organization. Point being, care already is fragmented—what we need is better communication between doctors for more complete care of patients. Health information exchanges, patient portals, and automated communication through technology are ways to consolidate a patient’s health history.
Retail clinic operators would agree that pediatricians can treat children with special needs more appropriately, but these are not the children typically visiting a retail-based clinic. Moreover, clinics can quickly and accurately give treatment during off-hours—lessening the visit wait times for by-appointment doctors.
Central health records? As with the first concern, patients’ health history needs to travel with them throughout their lives, from childhood to adulthood. Rather than trying to have one central location for a patient, physicians should work together to ensure each of their records on the same patient is accessible and communicated.
One of the most common tests run in retail clinics are rapid strep tests; urgent cares typically aren’t running complex tests on children. Again, most urgent care centers would agree that their clinic isn’t the best option in certain situations, and often refuse to even see children with more involved conditions. As far as follow-up, urgent cares regularly provide more consistent follow-up than a doctor’s office—typically calling patients within three days of their visit. Urgent cares tend to be more consumer focused as word-of-mouth marketing is key to their business.
Has anyone been in an airport, school, or hospital lately? Germs exist everywhere and in every medical practice. Safe sanitary practices are a standard all medical professionals follow—no matter the clinic, no matter the treatment.
Summing It Up
Urgent cares are a partner with primary care, not a replacement. Many urgent cares are staffed with a family physician, an ER physician, or pediatric physician—and have services that cater directly to children. Pediatric urgent cares are the newest and fastest growing phenomenon in urgent care because there is such a large need for after-hours, walk-in care for children.
We live in an on-demand society that dictates what care should be received and when. To provide convenient care—without exorbitant costs being placed on the industry—urgent care must step in and fill this gap, while completing the circle of coordinated care by relaying pertinent patient info to primary care offices.