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Introducing Urgent Care
Urgent care centers provide walk-in, extended-hour access to adults and children for acute illness and injury care. Urgent care centers may also provide other healthcare services like sports and school physicals, travel medicine, and occupational medicine.
UCAOA recommends that all individuals have a primary care physician, and supports the American Academy of Family Physicians’ concept of a “medical home.” While some urgent care centers formally provide ongoing primary care, many centers do not and refer patients to a local physician group to serve as their primary care provider.
Urgent care centers are NOT the same as in-store retail clinics. Urgent care centers treat a broader scope of services and ages (most retail clinics’ minimum age is 18 months) than retail clinics, and have a different staffing model (primary physicians vs. primary NPs). Most retail clinics and urgent care centers in a community have a good referral relationship.
Urgent care centers are NOT freestanding emergency departments. They are not equipped to treat life-threatening emergencies, nor provide assistance for labor and delivery. Anyone in active labor or with a major injury should immediately seek treatment in the nearest emergency room.
When to Use an Urgent Care?
Use for non-life-threatening conditions
The primary care doctor is not available and immediate care is needed
Patient’s condition is not life-threatening or can wait until the next day
Quicker access to care for non-life-threatening illnesses and injuries
Lower copayments than a hospital emergency room
No appointments required
Open most holidays and weekends
Since no appointment is necessary, wait time may vary. More than two-thirds of Urgent Care patients are usually seen by a physician, nurse practitioner or physician assistant in less than 20 minutes.
Less than 20 minutes
Between 21 and 40 minutes
More than 40 minutes
Urgent Care Use