The field of pediatrics is, like any other branch of medicine, one that depends on reputation to a large extent. Parents are more likely to ask other parents they know about where they get medical care for their children than to respond to direct mail advertising, for example. As such, pediatricians need to work on their reputations – and on the digital versions thereof. There are also pressing reasons to work on increasing patient volume, including new guidelines for child well visits and the danger of parents using commercial walk-in clinics for pediatric care.

New guidelines for child well visits
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently updated the Periodicity Schedule for child well visits as part of the Bright Futures initiative. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires most insurance plans to cover all Bright Futures services for all children.

"The Periodicity Schedule basically tells you what we ought to do, and Bright Futures, I hope, tells you how to do it well," Joseph F. Hagan Jr., M.D., chair of the Bright Futures Steering Committee, said in a release. "Close your door and take five minutes with coffee in hand to read the recommendations."

The changes in child well visits may not represent a huge alteration to many physicians, but others will need to make note of them. For example, depression screening is now suggested for those between the ages of 11 and 21, and HIV and sexually transmitted infection risk assessments and screenings have been added for teens. Cervical dysplasia should only be screened for at 21 according to the new guidelines, instead of every year from 11 to 21.

Meeting patient needs 
The AAP recently issued a policy statement asserting retail clinics are an inappropriate source of primary care for children. A study published in JAMA Pediatrics found 74 percent of parents "first considered going to the pediatrician, but reported choosing an RC [retail clinic] because the RC had more convenient hours, no office appointment was available, they did not want to bother their pediatrician after hours or they thought the problem was not serious enough."

Pediatricians and family practice physicians must make it clear to patients and their families that retail clinics are not appropriate, and work to address the issues that drive parents to these clinics instead of the physician practice. Doing so is not only best for patients, but can also improve revenue cycle management through increasing the number of procedures a practice performs.