10 Surprising Facts About Urgent Care

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Marijke Vroomen Durning, RN on October 9, 2020
  • Young Hispanic female doctor or nurse smiling with young Caucasian female patient with wrist in bandage
    Things to Know About Urgent Care Services
    Urgent care clinics bring medical care closer to the community. They provide access to medical doctors and other healthcare professionals to those who need fast medical attention but not emergency care. Many clinics are open early in the morning until late in the evening. This makes medical care more accessible, particularly when infections and other illnesses pop up when your doctor’s office is closed. What do you know about your local urgent care providers, the illnesses they diagnose and the procedures they perform? Here are some urgent care facts that may surprise you.
  • Team of emergency room doctors moving patient on gurney
    1. Urgent care is not the same thing as emergency care.
    If you believe you or someone you love is having a heart attack or stroke, or any other life-threatening condition, you shouldn’t head for the urgent care clinic. Life-threatening conditions must be treated in a hospital emergency room where they have the personnel and resources to deal with serious and potentially fatal situations. Urgent care providers treat medical problems that should be dealt with quickly, but aren’t emergencies. These include suspected infections, minor-to-moderate cuts and burns, and sprains and fractures.
  • Young African American female doctor smiling at elderly patient
    2. Many urgent care clinics staff nurse practitioners and physician assistants.
    Nurse practitioners and physician assistants are healthcare professionals who can take medical histories, perform examinations, and diagnose and treat some of most common conditions seen in urgent care clinics. In many clinics, these are the professionals who will initially assess you, although there are doctors available if your case is complicated or the nurse practitioner or physician assistant wants a consult.
  • Young African American girl and mother at doctor
    3. Most urgent care clinics are open seven days a week.
    Nearly all urgent care clinics are open seven days a week, although hours can vary according to the day. Most, 99%, are open at least four hours each day. This means if you become ill or injured after traditional doctor’s office hours, on a weekend or a holiday, chances are you can see a doctor. Check to see your local clinic’s hours before you need them. If you have more than one clinic close by, their hours may complement each other, making it so one is available when the other isn’t.
  • Young Caucasian female doctor smiling and talking to older female patient in exam room
    4. Urgent care clinics have an average of seven exam rooms.
    While the number of exam rooms doesn’t mean there are as many healthcare professionals available to see patients, having several rooms allows the staff to care for patients more efficiently. For example, while a doctor is seeing a patient in one room, another patient can be getting ready for an examination in a second room, and there may be a third patient in another room who has already been seen and is getting ready to leave. This cuts down on waiting time for patients and doctors as well.
  • Young Caucasian female doctor or nurse or nurse practitioner greeting young African American female patient in waiting room
    5. Waiting time in an urgent care clinic is considerably shorter than in an ER.
    Walk into an emergency room waiting room and chances are there will be people who have been waiting for a long time to be seen. This is due to the high number of people who go to emergency rooms, as well as the less urgent cases having to wait as the staff deal with more serious emergencies. However, the average waiting time in an urgent care clinic is about 30 minutes or less for about 90% of the patients. The average time for the entire visit, from arrival to when you leave is about an hour or less.
  • Patient handing health insurance card for payment
    6. Urgent care fees are almost a tenth of emergency room fees.
    Going to an emergency room can be hard on the wallet, even if you have insurance. The average cost of an emergency room visit is estimated at $1,354. Urgent care clinics are considerably less expensive, with an average cost of less than $150 per visit. A large part of the cost difference is hospitals treat life-threatening and severe conditions. As such, they must be prepared with the right equipment and personnel for all possibilities, including multiple patients at the same time. Urgent care clinics don’t have those expenses.
  • Asian American mother with child holding phone or tablet in living room
    7. You may be able to make an appointment.
    In general, the purpose behind the urgent care clinic is to allow patients to walk in as needed. However, some clinics also offer appointment services so you can plan your day rather than wait in the waiting room. Some clinics also have services where you can sign in remotely. You then check on your phone or wait to be notified by the clinic when your name is coming up, so you can return to the clinic in time.
  • gettyimages 642592838
    8. Urgent care clinics are popular among millennials.
    Millennials, adults born between 1981 and 1996, tend to use urgent care clinics more than any other age group. This is followed by the Gen-Xers, who were born between 1965 and 1980. This could be due to time constraints as they seek medical help after hours, trying to balance their work and personal life.
  • Exterior of hospital emergency room sign
    9. Only 3% of urgent care patients are sent to emergency rooms.
    Most people who go to an urgent care clinic have gone to the right place. Because urgent care clinics can’t deal with life-threatening or otherwise serious emergencies, patients who require emergency care must be transferred. However, only about 3% of people need a transfer. This means most people have a good understanding of what urgent care conditions are or when they should go directly to a hospital’s emergency department.
  • Young male Caucasian doctor smiling at African American female patient
    10. Many urgent care clinics are owned by corporations.
    Thirty-nine percent of urgent care clinics are owned by corporations, followed by hospitals in conjunction with doctors (16%). Some clinics are owned by doctors themselves, while others are owned by investors. In the past 10 years, investors have injected at least $3 billion into urgent care clinics, and this is predicted to grow, particularly in the larger, urban areas.
10 Surprising Urgent Care Facts

About The Author

Marijke Vroomen Durning, RN, has been writing health information for the past 20 years. She has extensive experience writing about health issues like sepsis, cancer, mental health issues, and women’s health. She is also author of the book Just the Right Dose: Your Smart Guide to Prescription Medications and How to Take Them Safely.
  1. Industry FAQs. Urgent Care Association. https://www.ucaoa.org/page/IndustryFAQs?
  2. 20 things to know about urgent care | 2015. Becker’s Hospital Review. https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/lists/20-things-to-know-about-urgent-care-2015.html
  3. 5 Facts About Urgent Care Clinics. The American Journal of Managed Care. https://www.ajmc.com/newsroom/5-facts-about-urgent-care-clinics

Was this helpful?
Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Oct 9
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.