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What is Urgent Care?

Urgent care is the delivery of ambulatory care in a facility dedicated to the delivery of medical care outside of a hospital emergency department, usually on an unscheduled, walk-in basis. Urgent care centers are primarily used to treat patients who have an injury or illness that requires immediate care but is not serious enough to warrant a visit to an emergency department. Often urgent care centers are not open on a continuous basis, unlike a hospital emergency department which would be open at all times.

Criteria for Urgent Care Centers

The Urgent Care Association of America established criteria for urgent care centers in April 2009 - The Certified Urgent Care Center designation. These criteria define scope of service, hours of operation, and staffing requirements. A qualifying facility must accept walk-in patients of all ages during all hours of operation. It should treat a "broad-spectrum" of illnesses and injuries, and have the ability to perform minor procedures. An urgent care center must also have on-site diagnostic services, including phlebotomy and x-ray.

Urgent care centers are distinguished from other similar types of ambulatory healthcare centers, such as emergency departments, and walk-in primary care centers by the scope of illness treated and facilities available on-site. In 2000, medical treatment centers opened in retail stores with an on-site pharmacy. These centers are generally staffed with nurse practitioners or physician assistants.

Postgraduate training

In 2006, the Urgent Care Association of America sponsored the first fellowship training program in urgent care medicine. This fellowship resulted from collaboration between the Department of Family Medicine University Hospitals of Cleveland / Case School of Medicine, the Urgent Care Association of America (UCAOA), and University Primary and Specialty Care Practices, Inc. in Cleveland, Ohio. The program is partially funded by an unrestricted grant from the Urgent Care Association of America to support the fellowship program. Physicians in the urgent care fellowship program receive training in the many disciplines that an urgent care physician needs to master. These disciplines include adult emergencies, pediatric emergencies, wound and injury evaluation and treatment, occupational medicine, urgent care procedures, and business aspects of the urgent care center. In 2007, the Urgent Care Association of America (UCAOA) sponsored a second fellowship opportunity through the University of Illinois. The one-year fellowships are open to graduates of accredited Family Medicine and Med/Peds residencies.

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