AAFP Statement: Recent Retail Clinic Studies May Misinform Patients

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Statement attributable to:
Ted Epperly, M.D.
American Academy of Family Physicians

“The recent studies by the Rand Corporation published in the latest Annals of Internal Medicine claim that care delivered at retail health clinics is as good and is less expensive than care received in a doctor’s office.

“That is a very broad conclusion to draw from a study that included patients from only one state.

“Furthermore, it compared care for only three common complaints: sore throat, urinary tract infection and earache. Out of the thousands of medical problems patients experience everyday, these three often simple diagnoses should not be used to draw such broad conclusions about the overall quality and cost of medical care received.

“The American Academy of Family Physicians believes retail health clinics can complement the work of family and other primary care physicians. However, retail health clinics cannot replace a trusted personal physician who is familiar with a patient’s medical and family history, provides and coordinates care over a spectrum of conditions with other health care professionals, and can perform much more sophisticated testing and diagnosis and treatment and procedures when appropriate.

“The retail health business model is an over-the-counter medication aimed at temporarily treating only one symptom of an ailing health care system.

“While retail health clinics provide access and convenience, more and more family physicians’ offices are stepping up and doing the same, with an added bonus: patients know their doctor and their doctor has all their medical history.

“The cornerstone of family medicine is forged on an ongoing, continuous patient-physician relationship that is focused on integrated quality care.

“Patients are at risk when they seek services from a health care provider who is not familiar with their medical history, health risks, and other vital information and does not possess this vital trusting relationship.

“The AAFP is working with some retail health companies to ensure they provide the appropriate level of care.”

Editor’s note: To arrange an interview with Ted Epperly, MD, contact Amanda Holt, at 800-274-2237, Ext. 5223, or aholt@aafp.org.

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Founded in 1947, the AAFP represents 124,900 physicians and medical students nationwide. It is the only medical society devoted solely to primary care.

Family physicians conduct approximately one in five office visits -- that’s 192 million visits annually or 48 percent more than the next most visited medical specialty. Today, family physicians provide more care for America’s underserved and rural populations than any other medical specialty. Family medicine’s cornerstone is an ongoing, personal patient-physician relationship focused on integrated care.

To learn more about the specialty of family medicine, the AAFP's positions(5 page PDF) on issues and clinical care, and for downloadable multi-media highlighting family medicine, visit
www.aafp.org/media. For information about health care, health conditions and wellness, please visit the AAFP’s award-winning consumer website, www.FamilyDoctor.org(www.familydoctor.org).