Urgent care centers provide walk-in, extended hour access for acute illness and injury care that is either beyond the scope or availability of the typical primary care practice or retail clinic. There are over 8,700 urgent care centers in the US.
UCAOA now provides specific criteria for defining what an urgent care center is. Urgent care centers have a broader and deeper scope of services than retail clinics, but are not equivalent to emergency departments. Urgent care ideally helps in reserving the nation’s emergency room resources for more serious, life-threatening conditions.
Urgent care helps to improve both access to care and proper utilization of health system resources. There are many studies by the CDC and others that identify significant numbers of patients who went to an ER that could have been treated in urgent care centers. (We recommend that all patients who believe they may have a life threatening condition seek care in an emergency facility.)
The ability of an urgent care center to provide immediate care for acute, non-life threatening illness and injury is a critical component of any community’s health system. Cooperation between patients, primary physicians, emergency departments and urgent care providers can create a network of care options that puts the patient in the right hands at the right time for the right level of care.
“About Urgent Care.” http://www.ucaoa.org/home_abouturgentcare.php. Urgent Care Association of America. 15 Sept 2011. Web. 06 Dec 2011.