We should have seen it coming: Wal-Mart clinics. And not just Wal-Mart clinics but CVS, Kroger, and Walgreen clinics to name but a few. Commonly known as retail based clinics (RBCs), these 9-5 clinics treat simple problems like ear infections, bronchitis and even provide immunizations. It’s estimated that over the next 10 years, RBCs will number nearly 10,000 in the United States.
Big box retail stores are the place for buying beef jerky and Tylenol in bulk. But when it comes to discerning early meningitis from a bad sinus infection in your child, traditional medical venues might be a better bet. All parents need to advocate for their children by seeking care in a medical home accustomed to treating kids.
The American Academy of Pediatrics last month published a statement critical of RBCs. The AAP policy cited a number of concerns surrounding retail pediatrics including fragmentation of care, lack of access to medical records, and deficient follow-up among other things.
Despite criticism, these clinics claim to fulfill an unmet need for fast, cheap care. Perhaps this is because caring for children isn’t best done fast & cheap. While RBCs may be fashionable now, parents will ultimately learn that this drive-through, fast food equivalent of pediatric care isn’t healthy.