As the wait-times at hospital ERs continue to lengthen, patients are finding other places to seek emergency care — urgent care clinics. The Wall Street Journal reports that nearly ¼ of the nation's 8,000 urgent care centers are linked to hospitals while the rest are independently run. These centers, staffed by physicians and nurses, can serve as a middle step between the minute clinics that now populate many drug stores and hospital ERs.
Urgent care centers are setting up a formal accreditation process and many belong to the Urgent Care Association of America. As these centers become an established part of the fabric of the US health care system, good marketing campaigns to educate and increase consumer awareness will be increasingly important.[Source: Landro, Laura. "Options Expand for Avoiding Crowded ERs," Wall Street Journal, 8.6.08]