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.