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Focused Review: A Look Into Urgent Care

Urgent Care Centers (UCC) fill a much-needed gap in an overwhelmed healthcare system. According to the Urgent Care Association (UCA), there has been steady growth in the number of UCCs operating in the United States over the last 10 years. In 2013, there were a total of 6,100 nationwide. That number is now approaching 10,000. The physicians practicing in these centers, like emergency medicine and family medicine practitioners, need a broad knowledge base and skill set that enables them to quickly assess and identify acute problems as well as unknown chronic conditions that may present as a benign common symptom.

Because of the wide range of clinical issues UCCs encounter on a regular basis, seemingly routine care processes have the potential to pose serious risks to patients, leaving physicians vulnerable to medical professional liability.

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In the latest focused review, the risk management and patient safety experts with the Cooperative of American Physicians, Inc. identified five common areas of liability risk associated with claims against UC physicians. Cognitive bias, supervision of advanced practice professionals, documentation, repeat visits with the same complaint, and patient referrals and transfers to higher levels of care are among the issues reviewed, along with supporting case studies. Effective and actionable risk reduction strategies are also provided for each area.

As UCCs continue to expand their presence in the healthcare market and evolve their services, a greater awareness and understanding of the risks associated with the practice of UC medicine by physicians of all specialties and backgrounds will play a crucial role in ensuring the implementation of essential patient safety measures in urgent care center settings and across the continuum of care.

The Risk Management and Patient Safety Focused Review: A Look into Urgent Care can be downloaded at

CAP’s priority is to support its members with specialty-specific education around risk and patient safety issues that can impact your career with the goal of reducing your liability, protecting your patients, and helping you succeed in practice.

While the risks emphasized in this focused review are not inclusive of all the potential areas of liability that a UC physician may face, it does bring to light the common allegations and contributing factors that are seen most often in claims.

CAP members may seek assistance if a situation arises that calls for guidance on how best to handle an adverse event or outcome, reduce exposure, or manage the risks involved via the Risk Management Hotline at 800-252-0555. Experienced risk managers are available to members 24/7 to provide guidance and answer questions.

Questions or comments about the focused review may be sent to