The Doctor Will See You

Urgent care clinics are becoming more and more common. They tout things like low costs and fast service to lure patients away from traditional doctors’ offices. This time-honored marketing strategy has been used to sell everything from Big Macs to yoyos. When your children are sick, is it really a good idea to take them to an urgent-care clinic as opposed to their regular pediatrician? Let’s look at a few reasons why pediatric offices are better than urgent care locations.


The staff at the urgent care clinic has no idea who you are. When your children’s health is involved, that disconnect between the pediatrician and patient can be dangerous:

· The Big Picture: Urgent-care staffers may stitch up a cut without asking any questions, because they have no idea this is the child’s third trauma incident in the last month. Why is this? Maybe something else is behind the scene here.

· Individual Medical History: Even a diligent staff may not have access to the child’s complete medical history, or they may over-rely on what the caregiver says. In such an environment, mistakes can be made.

· Fear Factor: Many kids (and adults as well) are afraid of the doctor. These patients are even more afraid of a strange doctor.


Your regular pediatrician has non-doctors on staff as assistants. Many clinics have the opposite model. There may be a “supervisory” doctor on staff, but non-physicians do all the work. In fact, 95 percent of the professional staff at an urgent-care clinic are nurses or physician’s assistants. Many patients may never even see a doctor. 49 states don’t require small clinics to have a physician on-site.

If you hire a plumber, you’d object if an unsupervised apprentice does all the work. Don’t accept less when it comes to your family’s health.


A pediatrician may refer you to a certain provider for lab work or a prescription drug, but the doctor will rarely, if ever, try to sell you anything. Most doctors, and patients, consider such behavior unprofessional. But, at a clinic, you may very well hear about a sale on cough syrup or receive a coupon for the dry-cleaner next door.

You already receive plenty of advertising and marketing messages. You don’t need to subject your family to even more of them.

Other Concerns

Many clinics accept Aetna, Blue Cross, Cigna and other big-name insurance carriers, but don’t work with smaller companies. If you must go to an urgent-care clinic, verify their insurance information in advance.

If you go to your doctor for a seemingly minor issue that turns into something bigger, your doctor can usually handle it. An urgent-care clinic has limited resources and it can become overwhelmed.

According to federal law, hospitals must treat or stabilize everyone who shows up, regardless of ability to pay. Urgent-care clinics are exempt, and they can refuse service to anyone they please.

Don’t gamble with your childrens’ health. When they need medical attention, visit your regular pediatrician.