Urgent care facility

What is an urgent care facility?

An urgent care facility is a walk-in clinic designated to provide urgent outpatient care for acute and chronic illnesses and injuries that aren't serious enough to require a visit to a traditional emergency department.

Minimal regulations and state licensing requirements mean the capabilities of urgent care facilities vary considerably, but facilities typically:

  • Remain open 7 days a week
  • Have multiple exam rooms
  • Keep diagnostic equipment on site
  • Staff licensed physicians, registered nurses and physician assistants
  • Admit walk-in patients

Some urgent care facilities can provide care at a similar level to an emergency department and feature advanced diagnostic equipment and laboratory services. Unlike emergency departments, however, urgent care facilities are not usually mandated to provide care regardless of a patient's ability to pay. 

Urgent care first developed in the U.S. in the 1970s. Today, approximately 10,000 urgent care facilities are open across the country. 

What kinds of illnesses and injuries are treated at an urgent care facility?

Urgent care facilities are generally suitable for the treatment of an illness or injury that would not result in disability or death if not treated immediately, but could potentially cause disability or death after 24 hours without treatment.

Illnesses and injuries commonly treated at urgent care facilities include:

  • Allergic reaction
  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
  • Dehydration
  • Fever (without rash)
  • Lacerations
  • Pneumonia
  • Sinusitis
  • Sprains/strains
  • Upper respiratory infection
  • Pneumonia
  • Wounds