New research suggests that a growing number of parents now take their sick children to a retail pharmacy clinic like Walgreens or CVS rather than to a pediatrician.  Fox News reports the survey of more than 1,400 parents in the Midwest revealed that nearly a quarter said they had taken their child to a so-called "retail clinic" at least once.  KTRH Medical Expert Dr. Joe Galati from Houston Methodist says most of those store clinics are okay, but don't expect to find actual doctors there.  "You're undoubtedly going to be seen by either a nurse practitioner or a physician's assistant, and for most simple things you should be able to receive appropriate care for the problem," says Galati.  "Anything more complex, they will refer the patient either back to the family doctor or to an emergency room."

This particular study was too small and geographically limited to reveal or predict wider trends, but Dr. Galati says the increase in business at retail store clinics brings a larger issue to light: access.  "There is certainly a problem with access to care depending on the city and the practice that you go to," he explains.  "Patients and consumers are going to say it's far easier to go to a pharmacy around the block, just walk in and be seen and get a script or over-the-counter-medicine, than have to go through the potential hassle of seeing their family doctor."  Poor access and inconvenience in healthcare delivery is "part of a system that has to be fixed," according to Dr. Galati.

Most parents in this survey who used retail clinics for their kids did so for common ailments like colds, flu, sore throats, and ear infections.  For more serious ailments, Dr. Galati thinks it's better to see a doctor who is more familiar with the patient.  "I would say you have to be very careful (with these clinics) because the main thing a patient will have with their doctor is a high level of continuity...and you're not gonna have that with a walk-in clinic."  Finally, Dr. Galati recommends telling your child's doctor about any visits to retail clinics and any treatments or medications prescribed by the clinics.  "Communication is key," he says.

Listen to Your Health First with Dr. Joe Galati Sundays from 7-8 p.m. on Newsradio 740 KTRH