Factors that affect the cost of urgent care include the location of the practice, the contracts it has with its staff, and the types of care and treatment requested by its patients. Other things that can affect the cost of urgent care are whether the patient has private insurance and the types of equipment that the center has on premises. In general, the cost of urgent care in the United States is frequently less than that offered through emergency rooms, although these prices may be higher than those charged by private physicians. Costs at privately run urgent care centers in other countries, particularly in jurisdictions that have national health plans, may be significantly higher than services offered by government-supported doctors and clinics.
Urgent care, also known as ambulatory care or immediate care, is a form of health care that allows individuals who have non-life-threatening illnesses and injuries to receive medical care quickly. Immediate care is typically offered through walk-in medical centers that eliminate the need to wait for an appointment with a personal physician or a turn with an emergency room doctor. Those who do not have a personal physician may also use urgent care centers to obtain routine physical exams for insurance, school, or work.
The physical location and facilities of a particular ambulatory care clinic will often greatly affect the cost of urgent care. The real estate market in a specific area dictates the amount of rent that the owners of a clinic will have to pay. Some clinics may also boast more extensive diagnostic equipment than others, and the maintenance of this equipment will likewise contribute to higher costs for services. In some cases, urgent care may be offered in already existing businesses, such as drugstores or department stores. In such cases, the cost of care to consumers may be less than that charged at freestanding centers because the clinic is operating as part of another business.
The wages paid to those who work in immediate care clinics will also vary by location and the expertise of the employee. For example, some urgent care centers employ physicians to provide urgent care to patients, while others may rely more on nurse practitioners or physician assistants. Physicians typically command much higher salaries than do other primary care providers. In addition, an urgent care center that employs registered nurses to provide supportive services to its physicians instead of certified medical assistants will likely increase the cost of urgent care for patients due to the higher wages paid to registered nurses.