There have been two primary responses to consumers' desire for convenient care, both brick and mortar solutions: more retail clinics and urgent care centers. Both are falling short. Urgent care center utilization is dropping, and investment in retail clinics is declining. The Urgent Care Association of America reported that average visits per site dropped from 14,000 to 12,000 between 2014 and 2016.2 Similarly, annual investment in retail clinics shrank from $160 million in 2007 to $29 million in 2016.3
Virtual care offers what consumers really want: a variety of health and care services available to any location at any time, crossing the spectrum from health and wellness to episodic injury and illness to ongoing condition management. Retail clinics and urgent care provide a place for ad-hoc low-acuity care, but not a platform for a full suite of care services.
A new level of convenience and choice
Virtual care also brings convenience and choice to a new level by delivering a wide range of healthcare services to consumers, independent of physical location. Services include tracking health status, reminders to take medication and clinical encounters after hospitalization. An extensive selection of technologies—e.g. remote monitoring via digital devices such as glucometers and pulse oximeters, mobile applications, secure social platforms, secure messaging via email or text, and live video—allow care delivery anytime/anywhere.
Consumers are taking charge
Consumers see themselves as the primary decision-maker for health needs. In fact, 85 percent of consumers see themselves as in charge of their own health and healthcare, deciding when, where and how to receive health and care services. The unique combination of services available through virtual care delivers on these expectations.
2 Urgent Care Association of America Benchmarking Report Summary 2016 and 2014; http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.ucaoa.org/resource/resmgr/benchmarking/2016BenchmarkReport.pdf