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Learn the “When, Why & What” of Using Retail Health Clinics & Urgent Care

Learn the “when, why and what” of using retail health clinics and urgent care

With family time, work, errands, household chores and more, you pack a lot of living into each day. And sometimes that means...

WHEN you least expect it, stuff happens

Sickness can come on quickly, or an injury can happen without warning. Calling your doctor or going to the emergency room is often the best choice for serious illnesses and accidents.

So, what do you do when it’s not an emergency—but it’s after hours for your doctor’s office?

Avoid the ER for minor health issues. When you can’t see your normal doctor, you might want to consider using a retail health clinic or an urgent care center.

WHY go there? Get care now while saving time and money

Retail health clinics or urgent care centers are in many locations, and they’re frequently open evenings, weekends and sometimes holidays. Both are walk-in clinics that can treat minor, everyday health issues—and usually without an appointment.

WHAT’s the difference between urgent care centers and retail health clinics?

Here’s an at-a-glance guide to what both options usually offer. Keep in mind that a specific location’s services may differ, so it’s a good idea to call first to be sure.

Staff training and qualifications

Staffed mainly by non-doctors, such as nurse practitioners, who can prescribe meds and diagnose everyday health issues.

Usually staffed by both nurses and doctors, though a doctor may not always be on-site.

Some also have X-ray technicians and equipment on staff.
Type of health issues treated Able to treat conditions that don’t require a doctor, like colds and flu as well as other minor infections and skin problems.

Able to treat additional conditions that might be seen by a family doctor, such as allergies, minor burns, sprains and strains.

Hours and convenience

Able to see you without an appointment.

May have more weekend and evening hours than urgent care centers do.

Often found in or near a retail pharmacy, so that you can shop for other items and pick up prescriptions if needed.

Able to see you without an appointment.

Some allow you to schedule appointments to reduce your wait time (typically not an option at a retail health clinic).

Visits for both typically fall under your primary care provider benefit (based on your plan coverage). Copays, coinsurance or deductibles may apply.

Out-of-pocket costs for urgent care centers tend to be higher than a retail health clinic visit, but lower than an ER visit.

Small children

May have a minimum age requirement (typically 18 months). Call ahead if you have concerns about whether they can treat your child. May also call for a parent or guardian to be with a minor under 18 needing care.

In a true emergency, always dial 911 first!



© Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona | An Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.


This information is provided for educational purposes only. Individuals should always consult with their healthcare providers regarding medical care or treatment, as recommendations, services or resources are not a substitute for the advice or recommendation of an individual's physician or healthcare provider. Services or treatment options may not be covered under an individual’s particular health plan.