Providers see convenient care as both a threat and an opportunity, survey finds: 4 notes

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Amid the growing prevalence of retail clinics, urgent care facilities and direct-to-consumer telemedicine options, hospitals and health systems are still unsure how these convenient care options impact their organizations.

A new survey of providers on the NEJM Catalyst Insights Council illustrates the vast disparity in traditional healthcare organizations' opinions of convenient care, even as more than two-thirds of respondents admit that these new care options have benefited the healthcare industry overall.

"Many believe they are a threat and that convenient care provides poor quality and increases healthcare spending. Yet, at the same time, others view them as an opportunity and are having their systems incorporate these new options," Ateev Mehrotra, MD, associate professor of healthcare policy and medicine at Harvard Medical School and a hospitalist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, said in the report.

Here are four key findings from the report:

1. More than a third of the 664 healthcare executives, clinical leaders and clinicians surveyed said convenient care poses both a threat and an opportunity to their organization; another 29 percent, however, see it purely as a major opportunity. The greatest threat comes from telemedicine, followed by retail clinics and, at significantly lower rates, surgery centers and urgent care clinics.

2. The majority of respondents (62 percent) said convenient care options are of lower quality than offerings from primary care physicians. Only 2 percent believe convenient care offers higher quality than traditional care.

3. More than half of the surveyed providers said the proliferation of convenient care options has increased overall healthcare spending, with clinical leaders and clinicians more likely than executives to agree with that assessment.

4. Despite their mixed feelings toward convenient care, more than half of respondents said their organizations own or have a formal partnership with an urgent care clinic; 34 percent participate in telemedicine in some way, while 26 percent have some stake in a retail clinic. The two biggest benefits of this participation, they said, are meeting consumer demand and preventing the loss of patients to external clinical sites.

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