Urgent Care Centers
Originally approved by the ACEP Board of Directors October 2016
An urgent care center is a walk-in clinic focused on
the delivery of medical care for minor illnesses and injuries in an ambulatory
medical facility outside of a traditional hospital-based or freestanding
emergency department. Other names for similar types of facilities include, but
are not limited to: after hours walk-in clinics, minute clinics, quick care
clinics, minor emergency centers, and minor care clinics. In some instances, facilities
have used the term “emergency” in their name or advertisements, for example,
“Minor Emergency Clinic” or “We Treat Emergencies.”
Although the Urgent Care Association of America and
the American Academy of Urgent Care Medicine have criteria for urgent care
clinics, there are limited regulations or state licensing requirements.
Criteria may include: that the facility be open 7 days a week, contain multiple
exam rooms, have on-site diagnostic equipment, have a licensed physician as a
medical director, accept walk-in patients during business hours, treat a broad
spectrum of illnesses and injuries and perform minor medical procedures.
Urgent care clinics across the country offer a wide
range of care. Some provide levels of care similar to the level of care of an
emergency department (ED), including a board certified emergency physician,
advanced diagnostic equipment, including CT scan, X-ray, and many onsite
laboratory services. The majority of these facilities; however, are staffed by
primary care physicians, advanced practice registered nurses and physician
assistants, and have limited diagnostic equipment, often only including
point-of-care testing and limited medications. Unlike EDs associated with a
hospital, urgent care facilities do not have state or federal mandates to see,
treat, or stabilize patients without regard for the patient’s ability to pay.
The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP)
believes that any facility that does not meet the definition of an ED or
Freestanding Emergency Department as defined by ACEP, and that advertises
itself as providing unscheduled care should:
the word “emergency” or “ER” in its name in any way.
the word “emergency” or “ER” in any advertisements, claims of service, or to
describe the type or level of care provided or as an alternative to an ED.
Doing so may be considered a deceptive trade practice, as defined by federal or
applicable state law.
required to comply with appropriate state or federal licensing requirements
that specify staffing and equipment criteria to provide clear information to
patients accessing medical care.
ACEP believes that urgent care centers do hold a
place in appropriate unscheduled care, but the lack of regulation of facilities
has caused confusion for patients and has put the prudent layperson definition
of an emergency at risk. Therefore, ACEP encourages all states to have
regulations regarding urgent care centers and the use of the word “emergency”
that are developed to be consistent with this policy and with input from ACEP
chapters in the state.