What Is Urgent Care?

Urgent care is the treatment of acute illnesses or injuries that are not serious enough to be considered an emergency. Generally, an emergency is a condition that can threaten a life or cause impairment and should be treated at an Emergency Room. Every year, millions of patients visit an Emergency Room for conditions that would be better treated at an Urgent Care center. Some examples of conditions that can be more effectively treated at Urgent Care include:

  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • Bladder infections
  • Bronchitis
  • Ear infections
  • Influenza
  • Minor eye injuries
  • Minor scrapes and wounds
  • Sinus infections
  • Skin conditions
  • Sports injuries
  • Strep throat

Most Urgent Care centers are owned by physicians, hospitals or corporations and are usually staffed with physicians can provide routine immunizations, school or sports physicals, as well as lab tests and x-rays. About half of the clinics in the US also are staffed with physician assistants and nurse practitioners as additional providers.

With approximately 8,700 Urgent Care centers in the US and over 150 million visits per year, Urgent Care is a rapidly growing segment of US health care, typically providing extended hours to see patients outside of regular nine to five office hours. Those patients are able to get in and see a doctor quickly, as compared to only 57% of Americans who report having access to same or next day appointments with their primary care physician according to the Urgent Care Association of America. Plus, Urgent Care typically has cheaper co-pays compared to emergency room visits, and is also generally cheaper for patients who don’t have insurance.

For people with injuries or illnesses not severe enough to warrant a visit to the Emergency Room, or for those people who don’t want to wait for, or don’t have a primary care physician, Urgent Care is an attractive option to receive the care they need.