JAMA Viewpoint: The Convenience Revolution for Treatment of Low-Acuity Conditions

In this Viewpoint, Ateev Mehrotra, M.D., of RAND Health and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, provides an overview of the factors driving the proliferation of convenient care treatment options for low-acuity conditions such as bronchitis and urinary tract infections and the issues that need consideration with their increasing popularity.

“The future influence of convenient care options largely depends on 2 issues. The first involves whether they expand beyond the scope of low-acuity care. In the business model of ‘disruptive innovations,’ new market entries first focus on the less expensive and less attractive aspects of the market (for example, low-acuity conditions), then gradually expand their scope. Signs of this expansion are appearing. Retail clinics have expanded into chronic illness care, some worksite clinics and urgent care centers offer full primary care, and e-visits can offer specialty consultations.”

“The second issue is whether convenient care options offer an attractive alternative to existing primary care clinicians. Many health systems have begun to offer their own retail clinics, urgent care centers, or e-visits. Whether these new efforts are sufficient remains to be seen, but primary care practitioners risk a slow but steady decline in their scope of care if they do not offer a viable alternative to these new convenient care options.”

(JAMA. 2013;310[1]:35-36.