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Urgent-Care Centers

What An Urgent-Care Center Is

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An Urgent-care center is a free-standing clinic which provides emergency medical care for situations which are not so severe that an Emergency Room is a better option. .

Urgent-care centers can act as an alternative to a family doctor as well as to an emergency room. They are a step-up from Retail and Company clinics. They are good for such needs as minor injuries, minor burns and for treatment of minor infections.

Urgent-Care centers do not have the same equipment, facilities or depth of professional expertise as an emergency room of a hospital

Following are the basic characteristics of an Urgent-care center:

  • Staffed by doctors.The doctors who work in Urgent-care centers must be licensed like other doctors. However, as a general matter, Urgent-care clinics are not licensed or regulated by states.
  • No appointment is necessary. Wait times are generally short.
  • Hours are usually extended into the evening and include weekends.
  • Charges are a fraction of typical emergency room charges. Some even offer discounts and payment plans for people who are uninsured.
  • Most centers accept health insurance. Co-pays may be less for people who have health insurance.
  • Often located in a mall or other retail center.
  • Quality and amount of equipment varies.
  • There is no national standard for Urgent-care centers.
    • The Joint Commission ("JCAHO"- the nonprofit group that accredits hospitals and other health-care organizations) rates quality of urgent care centers under the heading of "Ambulatory Care." Type in your zip code at: offsite link
    • You can also check the quality of the doctor at the Urgent-care center. See Survivorship A to Z's document: "How To Choose A Primary Care Doctor"

Urgent-care centers do not provide follow-up care. (See your primary care doctor).

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