CVS Pharmacy One of the majorshifts in the primary care landscape has been the emergence ofurgent care and retail health clinics across the country–in bigcities, small towns, drugstores and strip malls. (Photo:Shutterstock)

The health care system continues to get more expensive withoutcommensurate improvements in quality and access. Employers andother health care purchasers under constant pressure to rein in costs are seeking innovative ways tooffer their plan members access to high quality and affordablecare. As a result, urgent and retail care centers are seeing a resurgence, presenting newopportunities and challenges for purchasers and their members.

Urgent care facilities and retail clinics have existed since thelate 20th century, commonly attached to hospitals totreat minor conditions. Privately owned clinics were brieflypopular in the 1970s and 80s, but were met with aggressivemarketing and acquisition by hospital systems, and derided by themedical community as a "doc in a box." By 2000, most urgent careand retail providers were gone, either merged into existingemergency departments (EDs) or closed.

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