Urgent vs. Immediate Care: Is There a Difference?

Immediate Careby MIPC Staff

People often use the terms “urgent” and “immediate” interchangeably when it comes to healthcare, often times, within these actual facilities.  Admittedly, the industry often uses these terms synonymously as an easy way to get their messages across to the general public, however, there is a clear distinction between these two terms and the type of care that they provide.

Typical urgent care centers can be found either attached to a hospital or as a freestanding facility.  These centers often provide basic healthcare services but also time-sensitive and non-life threatening emergencies.  The term “urgent” may lead someone to believe that a facility may be equipped to handle a potentially life-threatening emergency, but this is not often the case with urgent care centers.

The Emergency Medical Treatment Act passed by U.S. Congress in 1986 states[1], “no person, facility, or entity shall hold itself out to the public as an ‘urgent’, ‘urgi-‘, ’emergi-‘, or ’emergent’ care center or use any similar term, as defined by rule, that would give the impression that emergency medical treatment is provided by the person or entity or at the facility unless the facility is the emergency room of a facility licensed as a hospital under the Hospital Licensing Act or a facility licensed as a freestanding emergency center under the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Systems Act.”

Therefore, if a facility is not staffed, and its resources do not allow for, emergency treatment as defined by law, it should refrain from using the term “urgent” and instead use the term “walk-in” or “immediate”.

Immediate care centers typically allow for patients to have walk-in access to address acute, non-emergent, non-urgent, and non-life threatening issues. Some common examples include: sprains or strains, sore throat, sinus or urinary tract infections. Much like the care one would receive from a primary care physician, but designed to be more convenient and accessible to the patient.

Metro Immediate & Primary Care focuses on making healthcare services accessible to the community, especially when they do not have access to quality care or access to a primary care physician.  Our mission is to ensure that we provide exceptional healthcare services to those who need it most, regardless of who you are and no matter when the need arises.  We offer extended hours, Metro accessibility, online access to appointments and prescription refills.