Parents Like Retail Clinics for Kids

Would you take your child to a medical clinic in a supermarket?

According to a new survey, many parents do -- and those who have would do so again.

Retail clinics -- also known as in-store or convenient-care clinics -- began cropping up in suburban landscapes in 2005. They often are located in supermarkets, pharmacies, or discount stores.

In background information published with the survey results, researchers from the University of Michigan write that now there are more than 900 such retail clinics in the U.S. today.

Researchers write that the clinics "advertise no appointments, short wait times and lower prices than emergency rooms and urgent care clinics."

They often provide care for problems such as colds, sore throat , ear infection , and pinkeye . Some clinics may also offer vaccines and basic physicals for sports and camp.

Matthew Davis, MD, is director of the National Poll on Children's Health, which looked into parents' opinions on taking their children to retail clinics. "We found that the vast majority of parents were taking their children to a retail clinic as a substitute for regular care, either at a doctor's office, emergency department or urgent care clinic," he says in a news release.

An outside group administered the survey randomly to 2,064 nationally representative adults with and without children. The survey was taken in April 2008. The findings appear in the Aug. 11 edition of the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital's online publication.

Twenty-nine percent of parents surveyed said they have a retail clinic in their community. In those neighborhoods, one out of six parents have taken their children there for medical care. And one out of four parents say they would have taken their children to the emergency room if the clinic had not been available.

Here are some highlights of the survey:

  • 2 out of 3 parents who used a retail clinic said they "were likely or very likely" to return.

  • Among parents who had never taken a child to a retail clinic but who lived near one, 1 out of 7 said they are "likely or very likely" to use one.

  • 40% of all retail clinic visits surveyed were covered completely by insurance.

  • 38% of visits were paid for partly by insurance.

  • In 22% of the visits the parents paid out of pocket.

Davis says, "The American Academy of Pediatrics is concerned that retail clinics interrupt the care that kids otherwise would receive from their regular doctors. When those interruptions occur in care, information about children's health problems -- which their doctors need to know about -- can slip through the cracks, and that can lead to worse health care for kids in the long run."

(Have you taken your kids to a retail clinic ? Would you go back? Tell us about it on WebMD's Parenting: Preschoolers and Grade Schoolers board.)

By Kelley Colihan
Reviewed by Louise Chang
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