People have begun to ration themselves off of medical visits and prescription drugs, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).

1 in 5 Americans (22%) said they reduced visits to the doctor due to the slowing economy. 1 in 10 (11%) have reduced their prescription drug intake.

The NAIC found that 85% of Americans have made a change to their health insurance policy.

In related news, Take Care Clinics, part of Walgreens, is offering school and sports physicals for $25. These are being offered to patients 18 months of age and older. The clinics will also certify that kids’ immunizations are up-to-date.
The launch of this targeted service is well-timed for back-to-school physicals when pediatricians’ offices can be very busy in the weeks leading up to school starts. Take Care’s press release has been quick to point out that, “School and sports physicals at a Take Care Clinic do not take the place of a child’s yearly routine health exam and complete developmental assessment.” Take Care has about 200 clinics in 14 states.

There’s evidence that, which the retail clinic business may have plateued, it’s still a convenient place to bring children to care. My alma mater the University of Michigan released a study on 11 August 2008 which found that convenience and cost are motivating parents to use retail clinics for routine care — such as vaccinations and physicals, a la the Take Care project.

U-M found that in communities with nearby retail clinics, 1 in 6 parents has taken their kids there for care. 1 in 4 would likely use these clinics in the future. According to Matthew Davis, MD, MAPP, director of the National Poll on Children’s Health, “
About half of the parents said they wanted to take care of their children’s problems more quickly, which suggests to us that doctor’s offices may not be meeting expectations of parents in terms of providing timely care.”

The inconvenience fact of life with pediatricians’ office was this: 7 out of 10 parents who took their children to a retail clinic considered taking their child to the doctor’s office, but 40% said they couldn’t get an appointment at the doctor’s office.

Health Populi’s Hot Points:
There was a survey done among women for the Lifetime Network a few years ago which asked about women’s caregiving approaches in their homes. The survey found that women tend to take care of others before they care for themselves. The poll even found that women take their pets to the vet before they would take themselves to their physician even though they didn’t feel well.

Given the clear need parents see for immediate kid-care, might we see the day when the new permutation of Toys ‘R Us will be, “Health Is Us?”

Or perhaps the pediatricians’ new mode of medical home for kids could reengineer around convenience and helpful cost models. A parent of a tween can dream, can’t she?