Approximately 50 million times annually, patients visit physicians for low-acuity conditions such as bronchitis and urinary tract infections.1 Many more would likely visit their primary care physician if there were shorter appointment delays at primary care offices—but such delays will likely worsen with the Affordable Care Act as millions of patients gain insurance and seek primary care.
Until recently, patients’ alternatives beyond primary care offices were limited: visit the emergency department or stay home. Now, patients can receive care via a plethora of new options—the Internet, a store kiosk, a nurse home visit, or a retail clinic (Table). The popularity of these new options indicates that they fill an unmet need. For example, retail clinic visits increased 4-fold between 2007 and 2009 and now account for almost 6 million annual visits.2
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