Urgent care

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Urgent care is the delivery of ambulatory care in a facility dedicated to the delivery of medical care outside of a hospital emergency department, usually on an unscheduled, walk-in basis. Urgent care centers are primarily used to treat patients who have an injury or illness that requires immediate care but is not serious enough to warrant a visit to an emergency department. Often urgent care centers are not open on a continuous basis, unlike a hospital emergency department which would be open at all times.


The initial urgent care centers opened in the 1970s. Since then this sector of the health care industry has rapidly expanded to an approximately 10,000 centers. Many of these centers have been started by emergency medicine physicians who have responded to the public need for convenient access to unscheduled medical care. Much of the growth of these centers has been fueled by the significant savings that urgent care centers provide over the care in a hospital emergency department. Many managed care organizations (MCOs) now encourage their customers to utilize the urgent care option.

Criteria for Urgent Care Centers

The Urgent Care Association of America established criteria for urgent care centers in April 2009 - The Certified Urgent Care Center designation. These criteria define scope of service, hours of operation, and staffing requirements. A qualifying facility musy accept walk-in patients of all ages during all hours of operation. It should treat a...
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