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One would think, in these days of COVID-19, that America’s doctors and patients are as reliant on our hospitals as they’ve ever been, and that they’re going to stay that way. Guess again.

Today, even as the health care system and the economy face strains from the coronavirus and its complications, scores of doctors and patients are avoiding large bureaucratic hospitals and instead flocking toward leaner and meaner models of health care.

Professional providers of all types — from surgeons to drugstore owners — are focusing on innovation. Even better, they’re now treating patients as consumers who value quality care at reasonable prices they can know in advance.

Walgreens and VillageMD, for instance, have partnered to open primary-care centers in 500 to 700 drugstores over a five-year period. These centers will provide annual check-ups, walk-in appointments, and many other services. Physician-led teams of four people will treat up to 120 patients per day at these mostly 3,300-square-foot locations.

This model is the latest iteration of a trend called decentralized care, in which patients obtain treatment through telehealth services and outpatient surgery centers and clinics — rather than by visiting hospitals.

For two decades, the late Harvard Business professor Clayton Christensen predicted that decentralization in health care would follow other industries on this path, such as travel, retail, and financial services. It was only a matter of time, said Christensen, before health care innovators improved access to services and reduced costs.

Two key factors are driving this emerging trend, as a recent article pointed out: 1) urgent-care clinics and expanded pharmacy services are improving the efficiency of health care delivery; and 2) more people, especially older adults, are receiving care at home.

Americans who support this free-market health trend share some of the top reasons for its popularity, including convenience and price transparency.

The media has been reporting on the trend, too. Yahoo Finance, for example, ran a piece this summer about the expected growth of urgent-care centers over the next five years.