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Convenience Steers Parents to Retail Clinics: Study

Families with regular doctor may use drug-store services because of extended hours

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, July 22 (HealthDay News) -- Convenience is the main reason why parents with a regular pediatrician will take their children to health clinics in large chain drug stores or other retail locations, a new study finds.

Most retail clinics are staffed by nurse practitioners and physician assistants who care for patients 18 months and older with minor illnesses such as ear and throat infections. But little is known about the use of retail clinics for children's care, and the study authors wanted to find out why parents who have established relationships with pediatricians use these clinics.

The study of nearly 1,500 parents who took their children to pediatric practices in the Midwest found that about one-quarter had taken their children to retail clinics. Of those parents, 74 percent first considered going to the pediatrician but decided on a retail clinic because it had more convenient hours (about 37 percent), no pediatrician appointment was available (25 percent), they did not want to bother their pediatrician after hours (more than 15 percent) or they thought their child's problem was not serious enough for a visit to the pediatrician (13 percent).

The most common reasons for visits to retail clinics were: sore throat, ear infection, and colds or flu, according to the study, published online July 22 in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

"Many parents with established relationships with a pediatrician use RCs (retail clinics) for themselves and for their children, with some repeatedly choosing the RC instead of an office visit. These parents believe RCs provide better access to timely care at hours convenient to the family's schedule," Jane Garbutt, of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and colleagues wrote in a journal news release.

Pediatricians may need to establish communication with the retail clinics to address concerns about quality of care, duplication of services and disrupted care coordination, the researchers said. "They also will need to directly address parents' need for convenient access to care," the researchers concluded.

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