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No Appointment Needed: The Resurgence of Urgent Care Centers in the United States

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Publication Date: September 2007

Publisher(s): California HealthCare Foundation

Author(s): Robin M. Weinick; Robin M. Weinick

Topic: Health (Hospitals and other health care facilities)

Type: Report

Coverage: California


There is no nationally accepted definition of what constitutes an urgent care center. The scope of services they provide generally falls between that of a primary care doctor's office and an emergency department. However, while they are often poorly understood even by medical professionals, urgent care centers are quietly filling a key niche in the health care system. Fueled by consumer backlash over long waiting times to see other providers, a new growth spurt for the urgent care industry began in the mid-1990s and continues today. Many centers have attracted patients by emphasizing convenient, high-quality care, making them an attractive alternative to hospital emergency departments. This report explains what urgent care centers are, how they operate, and the role they play in the health care delivery system. It includes specific information on urgent care centers in California and offers perspectives from urgent care center operators and other industry experts. And it explores key issues and questions related to how urgent care centers are faring in the health care system, as well as their prospects for the future.