Convenient Care Trends

Convenient Care Trends

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6355-8.ch004
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Abstract

In this chapter, the author introduces several alternatives to traditional care provided in the physician office during regular business hours. While the settings where the care is delivered are different, the common characteristics among these alternatives are to have non-physician providers deliver care that is more convenient and less costly than that delivered in regular physician offices. Convenient care alternatives such as urgent care centers, retail clinics, worksite clinics, house call services, and virtual/online services are highlighted. These services are described as “disruptive innovations,” or powerful changes in which a larger population of less-skilled providers can provide care in more convenient, less expensive settings that historically was only provided by expensive specialists in centralized, inconvenient locations. Given the myriad of problems faced by the American healthcare systems, the authors argue that these innovations are well positioned to change the way healthcare is delivered for generations to come.
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We can’t look at health in isolation. It’s not just in the doctor’s office. It’s got to be where we live, we work, we play, we pray— Dr. Regina Benjamin, U.S. Surgeon General, 2011

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Introduction

As discussed in the first section of this book, primary care in the United States is in a deepening crisis as physician shortages and reduced patient access loom. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) will improve the coverage for uninsured and underinsured people, but will not solve the primary care access conundrum, especially with 32 million people expected to be added to the realm of the insured by the year 2019. As healthcare costs continue to rise, patients continue to deal with an inconvenient system where access to after-hours care is very limited. With the availability of non-physician providers to treat limited-scope conditions, several alternatives to traditional care provided in the physician office during regular business hours have started to surface in the last decade. While the settings where the care is delivered are different, the common characteristics among these alternatives are to have non-physician providers deliver care that is more convenient and less costly than that delivered in regular physician offices. These alternatives include urgent care centers, retail clinics, worksite clinics, house call services and online services, among others. We group these types of services under the label “convenient care.” In this chapter, we describe the factors that have contributed to the proliferation of these new models, and discuss an overall framework that can help better understand them. In chapters 5-8, we cover each one of them separately.

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