In recent years, thousands of urgent care centers have spread across the United States, offering patients access to non-critical medical care with short waiting periods and for affordable costs. So far, this has had a significant impact on the healthcare industry: there are an estimated 160 million visits to urgent care clinics in the U.S. every year, reducing the strain typically placed on hospitals and local doctors offices. However, some government organizations have grown concerned about potential negative effects urgent care facilities could have on their patients. For this reason, in 2014, New York state became one of the first states to pass regulations for urgent care centers.
Under the new rulings from the New York Public Health and Health Planning Council (PHHPC), medical walk in clinics are now divided into four categories: limited services or retail clinics, urgent care centers, hospital-sponsored freestanding emergency departments, and ambulatory surgery centers. Urgent care centers are required to:
- Only treat acute episodic illnesses or minor trauma.
- Allow unscheduled, walk in appointments and offer extended hours on weekdays and weekends.
- Have X-ray and EKG technology on-site to help diagnose and treat medical problems.
- Offer care for lacerations.
- Have crash cart supplies and medications on hand.
These urgent care centers will also have to identify themselves as an urgent care facility in their name and in all signage. Similarly, they are forbidden from using the word “emergency” in their name unless licensed by New York State to prevent unnecessary confusion. All centers will be required to be accredited by the Department of Health or a similar organization, and must undergo inspections and reviews before they can treat patients.
While New York State’s intentions are well-meant, many of these requirements are already in place in a number of places: for example, if a center wants to be accredited by an association such as the Urgent Care Association of America (UCAOA), they must meet a number of medical standards, be open for extended hours, and more. However, a number of other states are now considering implementing similar standards, as corporations like Walmart begin to rent out space in their stores to physicians for lower-quality versions of the original urgent care center. But in spite of this, the average urgent care center will be able to provide you with the care you need for your non-life-threatening medical condition. However, if the regulations being instated by New York and other states can teach us anything, it is this: when choosing an urgent care center, it is important to make sure the clinic meets quality standards to ensure that you get the treatment you deserve. More like this article.