How to Choose an Urgent Care Facility

Story by Steve Howell 

When we have an urgent, but non-critical need for care, an urgent care facility may be the best choice. Terms such as convenient, immediate, urgent, and walk-in care all refer to this class of medical facility. They’re designed to serve people whose healthcare needs range between illnesses and aches, and emergencies such as threats to life, limb, or eyesight that we normally associate with an ambulance ride to a traditional hospital emergency room.

The challenge is in choosing the right one. A facility’s proximity is key when you or a loved one is suffering from, say, an unusually high fever or a kitchen knife accident, but there is more to consider than drive time. It’s a good idea to put a moment’s thought into where you might turn for help in the event of a non-life-threatening emergency. Waiting to choose the right facility until you’re in need of immediate attention could turn the decision into a frantic Google Maps drill with uncertain results.

So how do we choose during normal moments of peace and quiet what we won’t want to take precious time to research when our health and safety may be at risk? Accreditations are a good place to start. According to the Urgent Care Association of America (UCAOA), there are two criteria by which urgent care facilities are recognized. The first is the USAOA Accreditation Program. The other certification program recognized by the UCAOA is the Certified Urgent Care (CUC) program. The CUC is used to recognize urgent care facilities that meet all the criteria that are standard in the United States for demonstrating an urgent care facility’s accessibility to all patients, the capability of the staff to treat a wide range of injuries and illnesses, and the clinic’s capacity to respond to an outbreak of disease in the local community.

These facilities operate with a sense of, yes, urgency. It’s for this reason that it might take a few tries to pin a person down on the phone long enough to get the details. With a little patience and an extra portion of politeness, you can find someone with a few free minutes to provide you with the answers you’re looking for.

To start with, ask about the certifications mentioned in this article. You might also inquire about services a clinic provides above and beyond primary care, such as occupational, physical, or weight-loss therapy. Ask about standard rates, supported insurance programs, average wait times, and if they have any limitations on care that’s provided. If you get a moment, check them out in person and get a feel for what the process looks like.

An urgent care facility can be a nice alternative to a preplanned appointment with a doctor or a more involved trip to the ER. Make sure you have one in mind in case somebody has an exceptionally bad day.