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Will Walgreens' Take Care Clinics and Other Convenience Clinics Take Business Away from Pediatricians?

With the rise of retail clinics, convenience clinics, and other in-store health services at large pharmacy chains, should pediatricians be worried about losing patients and business?

Having been a medical journalist, I can’t resist checking out Gary Schwitzer’s Health News Review Blog every now and again. This past week, he gave kudos to the Associated Press, which has been covering medical overtesting and overtreatment. Check out the AP’s interactive site that allows you to explore key areas of the body that are exposed to overtesting — it is focused on adults, but it would be interesting to see it expanded to include pediatrics as well.

I mentioned Walgreens in last week’s blog about the sale of personal genetic testing kits, and I want to return to the topic again this week and talk about in-store health clinics. While I’m not picking on any one particular store, convenience care clinics are popping up in some of the larger pharmacy chains (including CVS and Wal Mart). Earlier this year, the Take Care Clinic at Walgreens made a play for pediatric clientele. Specifically, they are offering physicals for $35 for children who play sports and attend summer camp to draw clientele.

I understand why a busy parent would take a sick child to a convenience clinic after normal office hours, especially if they weren’t sure if the child needed additional care. Sometimes a telephone nurse may not feel like enough, and parents may not want to subject their child to a potentially unnecessary trip to the ER.

However, I think it’s unwise for parents to use these clinics for what would be considered routine care, as this jeopardizes the benefits of the “patient home.” According to this website, the clinics use electronic records, but there is no word on whether any of these records are shared with patients’ primary care physicians.

Considering the growing popularity of convenience clinics and an overt attempt by some pharmacy chains to undercut the traditional office for routine healthcare, the American Academy of Pediatrics has been relatively quiet. I’ve read some discussion about market competition with regard to convenience clinics in pediatric publications, but relatively little else. Are healthcare professionals engaging in a dialogue on this subject? Is momentum gathering for professional medical societies and organizations to take an official stance on convenience clinics, or is it more a matter of finding a way to weave what these clinics offer into an increasingly complicated web of healthcare services?