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Did you know you can nationally certify your urgent care center?

The Urgent Care Association of America announced this month that 17 urgent care facilities have just received the organization’s Certified Urgent Care Center designation. This month’s new additions bring the total urgent care facilities nationwide that have achieved certification to 219.

The certification program was designed to define what a true urgent care center is in order to distinguish urgent care facilities from other types of medical providers. Urgent care centers that wish to become certified must meet nationally-standardized criteria that outline the level of services they provide.

So what does it take to become certified? Here is a brief overview of the required criteria for certification:

• Accept walk-in patients during all hours of operation.
• Have X-ray and laboratory services on site during all hours of operation.
• Have a licensed provider on site during all hours of operation who can obtain and read an EKG and X-ray; administer PO, IM, and IV medication/fluids; and perform minor procedures.
• Meet a required checklist of equipment, with staff trained to use all specified equipment.
• Have at least two exam rooms, separate waiting area, and restricted-access patient restrooms.
• Meet all three criteria for the minimum hours of operation: 7 days/week (not including national holidays); 4+ hours each day; 3,000 hours per year.
• Have a licensed physician who is responsible for overall clinical quality designated as the medical director for the facility.
• Provide medical care and perform business activities in an ethical manner.

These criteria may seem simple, but as a UCAOA Board member at the time, I can assure you that they were a result of hundreds of hours of deliberation (often quite energetic) by the directors of UCAOA. Many other criteria were considered, but in the end there was a general consensus that these criteria would set urgent care centers apart from primary care practices that offered extended hours, walk-in clinics that offered minimal services, and retail clinics.

What are the benefits of certification? Certified urgent care facilities have the opportunity to educate their communities on the industry, eliminate confusion with other types of providers, a national benchmark for negotiating higher fee schedules, and an edge in marketing with clearly outlined levels of services provided at their facility. The program itself increases public knowledge and understanding of the urgent care industry.

Facilities can receive certification in one of two categories depending on their staffing model. Some facilities and practice types, such as chiropractic offices, pain clinics, or retail clinics, are unlikely to meet all of the above minimum criteria for certification and should use extreme caution when applying because the application fees are non-refundable.

Certification is not equivalent to accreditation. Certification defines the level of services, while accreditation demonstrates that a facility meets national safety and quality standards. Urgent care centers that become certified may also choose to become accredited by the Joint Commission. These centers can then receive a joint letter from UCAOA and the Joint Commission. The letter clearly specifies that the center is both certified as an urgent care by UCAOA and accredited by the Joint Commission. For more information on how to apply for certification, visit http://ucaoa.org/recognition_certification.php.

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