Avoid Grocery or Pharmacy Clinics for Your Kids’ Care

Pediatricians best for 'big picture' of child's health

Mom with pharmacist

Health clinics inside grocery stores and pharmacies are convenient, but they are the wrong place to take your children for the best care.

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Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a formal recommendation opposing the use of these retail-based clinics for infants, children and adolescents. These retail-based clinics, focused on selling products, simply can’t substitute for a pediatrician caring for your child in a high-quality healthcare system.

Here are four reasons why we are so concerned about the retail-clinic trend:

1. It’s easy to miss the ‘big picture’

If you take your child into a retail-based clinic six times a year for stomach aches and see different nurse practitioners at different sites each time, your child could fall through the cracks as someone who has inflammatory bowel disease or another serious illness. When you have an established relationship with a pediatrician, he or she can see the ‘big picture’ of your child’s overall health to identify and treat potential issues early.

2. They’re a poor substitute for critical checkups

Sports physicals and immunizations are examples of the types of visits to retail-based clinics that most concern me. If you’re walking into a retail location for an immunization, that means you’ve missed your annual checkup. Same thing goes for sports physicals — too often, these visits are the only checkups kids get. They fail to provide the kind of care that kids need on an annual basis.

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Your child should receive a full checkup every year from a pediatrician in a trusted, high-quality healthcare system. Try scheduling ahead for your child’s checkup with a pediatrician at a convenient time of year, like during a school break. We can give them the correct immunizations, and sign all of the forms they need for the next year of athletics, scouting and school all at once.

3. Beware of communication breakdowns

Some retail-based clinics communicate with your child’s established pediatrician about their visit, but many don’t, even if their paperwork says they will. That kind of breakdown in communication could result in a missed diagnosis or inappropriate care for your kids’ needs. Established healthcare systems use electronic medical records designed to track these factors.

4. Healthcare systems offer convenience and quality, too

Many healthcare systems nationwide offer walk-in clinics that are just as convenient as retail-based clinics. When you can have that convenience while getting the best pediatric care for your child, there’s no reason to go anywhere else.

A pediatrician’s role

As pediatricians, we don’t just check your child’s growth charts and listen to his or her heartbeat. We’re focused on your child’s overall development, including preventing illness and injury, addressing acute and chronic issues and evaluating your child’s social and emotional development as they grow.

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This kind of care not only brings value to children, but also to entire families and to society.

In addition, healthcare systems across the country are constantly adding opportunities for convenient care to serve busy families. Their list of options for parents continues to grow.

When it comes to your child’s healthcare, you can have it all: convenience and quality.

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Deb Lonzer, MD

Deb Lonzer, MD, is a board-certified pediatrician and the Chair of the Department of Community Pediatrics for Cleveland Clinic Children’s.
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