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

Robin Weinick
Renée Betancourt


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This is archived content; for historical reference only.

As of 2007, when this article was published, there was no nationally accepted definition of what constituted an urgent care center. The scope of services these centers 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 providers, a growth spurt for the urgent care industry began in the mid-1990s. Many centers have attracted patients by emphasizing convenient, high-quality care, making them an attractive alternative to hospital emergency departments.

This 2007 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. It also explores key issues and questions related to the status of urgent care centers within the health care system, as well as their prospects for the future.

The report is available under Document Downloads.