PhotoThe French philosopher Voltaire is credited with first noting that “the perfect is the enemy of the good.” In other words: insisting on perfection (which is usually impossible, humanity and human nature being what they are) can often prevent any sort of improvement at all.

Meanwhile, on Feb. 24, the American Academy of Pediatrics updated its 2006 policy statement regarding retail-based health clinics (RBCs), calling them “an inappropriate source of primary care for pediatric patients, as they fragment medical care and are detrimental to the medical home concept of longitudinal and coordinated care.”

But representatives of the Convenient Care Association, the trade group representing the clinics, told USA Today that RBCs are “a more convenient option for parents with sick children rather than the alternative, which is often waiting for an appointment while the child is sick or spending hours in a high-cost emergency room for a minor pediatric complaint.”

If all other factors including cost and convenience were equal, chances are good that everybody (with the possible exception of paid spokespeople working for the Convenience Care Association) would agree: Having all of your child's medical issues handled by a dedicated pediatrician personally acquainted with your child is much better than parceling out various medical treatments among whichever nurse practitioners happen to be on duty at the CVS MinuteClinic or Walgreens Healthcare Clinic that day.

But of course all factors are not equal, and the reality is that for a lot of parents, especially the ones with not-particularly-good insurance coverage, RBCs offer the only regular pediatric care they can reasonably afford, or the only care they can fit around their work schedules.

In fairness to the American Academy of Pediatrics, its policy update does address this issue — or at least nod in its direction — when it notes that “pediatricians and other primary care physicians [must] receive adequate compensation for the continuous, coordinated, and comprehensive health care that they provide.”

This is true. Unfortunately, it's also true that sometimes, “adequate compensation” for a full-fledged physician's services costs more than parents can afford — which explains why lower-cost retail-based clinics are gaining in popularity.

Share your Comments