Urgent care is the delivery of ambulatory care in a facility dedicated to the delivery of medical care outside of a hospital emergency department, usually on an unscheduled, walk-in basis. Urgent care centers are primarily used to treat patients who have an injury or illness that requires immediate care but is not serious enough to warrant a visit to an emergency department. Often urgent care centers are not open on a continuous basis, unlike a hospital emergency department which would be open at all times. The initial urgent care centers opened in the 1970s. Since then, this sector of the healthcare industry has rapidly expanded to an approximately 10,000 centers. Many of these centers have been started by emergency medicine physicians who have responded to the public need for convenient access to unscheduled medical care.
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