Why Are Fewer Kids Going to the Pediatrician?

Research reveals that fewer kids are going to the pediatrician along with other recent trends in pediatric care. Find out about the changes and what they mean.

Little boy looking at his doctor

How do you decide whether to take your child to the pediatrician? Do you consider things like the cost, the chance of an antibiotic being prescribed, or whether other alternatives to a doctor visit are available?

It’s an issue health care professionals are discussing after a new study found that kids are seeing the doctor less often than in the past.

Overall pediatrician appointments in the U.S. dropped 14% between 2018 and 2016, an article in U.S. News & World Report notes, with sick visits decreasing by 24% but well visits increasing by 10%. The study, which was published Jan. 21 in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, used insurance claims data for children age 17 and younger from all 50 states.

Why the decrease in sick visits? About half of those visits were replaced by urgent care, retail clinics and telemedicine appointments, according to the article. The rest of the decrease could be related to increasing out-of-pocket costs, a lesser chance of being prescribed an antibiotic, or vaccinations reducing illness rates. Consumer awareness could also play a role.

“These changes fit with other patterns we’re seeing in well-child and care patterns in general. Consumers are increasingly knowledgeable in the context of pediatric care and know that many things don’t need an actual visit with the doctor,” Dr. James Perrin, who co-authored an editorial accompanying the study, told U.S. News & World Report.

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In addition to the importance of choosing the right pediatrician for your child, parents should stay up to date on when to see a doctor – including whether to seek emergency care or a scheduled appointment – and which symptoms are considered red flags.

Experts said the increase in well visits noted in the recent study could be due in part to no-copay guidelines for preventative care under the Affordable Care Act. Here’s a look at why well visits are important and when they should take place.

“My sense is that the Affordable Care Act did a number of really good and important things,” Perrin said in the article. “Preventive care is essentially free, and it allows pediatricians and their office team to spend more time on preventive care, and to think more holistically about children’s health. Parents should make use of their preventive care benefits.”

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