Consumers expect instant gratification for everything these days. Everything they interact with is on-demand, same day, and just a click away. Yet the majority of the healthcare system in the United States is based on drawn out schedules and calendars where it takes weeks or even months to get a primary care appointment, much less get in to see a specialist. As the demand for convenience has skyrocketed over the past decade, the growth of the walk-in clinic industry has been exponential, with both patients and providers responding.

Walk-in clinics have a variety of different sub-sectors including urgent care, pediatric urgent care, retail clinics and even free or low cost community clinics. Additionally, even general primary care providers are opening up their office hours to support walk-ins. Essentially, any medical provider that offers patients the ability to walk-in and see a qualified healthcare practitioner without an appointment could be considered a walk-in clinic.

While the types of services vary pretty wildly based on the sub-sector of walk-in clinic you visit, most treat minor illnesses like cold and flu symptoms, eye and ear infections, strep throat and bronchitis, as well as sprains, cuts, bug bites, scrapes and burns. More advanced clinics, including urgent care centers, tend to offer x-rays and lab services on-site, as well. For the millions of consumers that either don’t have a primary care providers, these clinic offer a great access point to address growing demand, which helps keep patients out of the emergency room.

Walk-in Clinic Guide

Services & Pricing

Walk-in clinics are a convenient resource for healthcare consumers needing treatment for minor illnesses and injuries, particularly when their primary care providers are not available. Services that you would normally receive at your primary care office are usually available at walk-in clinics including annual physicals, flu shots, and treatment of minor illnesses including cold and flu symptoms, sinus and ear infections, and more. You can also be seen for injuries such as burns, bites, sprains and breaks - things that you might first thing to go to the emergency room, but you’ll probably have a shorter wait and less cost at a walk-in clinic. As for cost, it really depends on where you go. Without insurance, you could pay as little as $25-35 for a retail clinic, or between $100-200 for an urgent care center.

Insurance & Payments

Most walk-in clinics take insurance, as well as medicare, but it is always best to contact the specific clinic or your insurance carrier for confirmation. You can generally expect the process to be very similar to your primary care provider where you’ll pay the co-pay prior to being seen by the doctor or nurse practitioner. The co-pay will likely be between $25-50 depending on your insurance plan, with some plans allowing you to be seen with no co-pay for wellness visits and immunizations. Any lab work, x-rays or other tests and services required will be billed against your insurance first and any supplemental balance due will be invoiced to you after the fact. Some clinics may know these amounts at the time of service and ask for payment before you leave. If you are eligible, quite a few walk-in clinics are no providing telemedicine visits, allowing you to see a provider virtually and save as much as 50% off the cost of a typical walk-in or urgent care visit.

Hours & Wait Times

Every urgent care center - even those part of the same group or brand - may have different hours. While they are meant to be conveniently accessible during times when your primary care provider is not, that’s subjective and highly variable. A traditional formula, however, is that an urgent care is open 6 to 7 days a week usually between the hours of 8 am to 8 pm. That could shift to nearly any 8-12 hour period between 7 am and 10 pm. You’ll even find some clinics open 24 hours a day, similar to an emergency room. As for wait time, most patients report waiting between 15-45 minutes on average, but that can certainly vary, as well. It’s usually best to find an urgent care near you to either confirm the hours online, or call the clinic directly to verify. Or, you can book a same day doctor appointment online with Solv.

Walk-in Clinic FAQs

  • What is a Walk-In Clinic?

    Walk-ins is a term used to describe a wide variety of clinics that accept patients without prior appointments. Different types of walk-ins include retail, urgent care, occupational medicine, and primary care clinics that offer walk-in hours. Even though it is difficult to calculate the exact number of walk-in clinics that exist in the United States given the variable and vaguely-defined nature of the category, 15,000 facilities are estimated to be around. While the majority of the facilities are government, charity or foundation, offering free services, many are private, providing extremely affordable rates.

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  • What’s the Difference between an Urgent Care and Walk-In Clinic?

    Walk-in clinic, urgent care center, convenient care clinic, immediate care clinic, and retail clinic are terms that are often used (too) interchangeably, creating confusion amongst patients. In essence, any healthcare facility that lets patients walk-in to get treatment without an advance appointment could be considered a walk-in clinic.

    An urgent care center, on the other hand, is a subtype of the walk-in clinic model that generally provides expanded services and extended hours. Retail clinics, which are another type of walk-in clinic, offer fewer services compared to the former. In addition, they are located inside of retail outlets or pharmacies, typically staffed by a nurse practitioner and generally cheaper than walk-in clinics.

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  • Is a Walk-In Clinic a Substitute for a Primary Care Physician?

    While walk-in clinics, especially urgent care centers, treat most minor injuries and illnesses, it is generally not a good idea to substitute them for a primary care physician. These facilities exist to supplement, not replace, primary care providers which may be closed in the evenings or on weekends and holidays. Using a walk-in clinic as your primary care provider may limit your access to healthcare due to the lower capacity of these facilities compared to a regular medical facility. Additionally, you may have trouble seeing the same provider visit to visit, so they may have very little awareness of your medical needs on an on-going basis.

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  • How much does a walk-in clinic cost?

    There are no real industry standards, so not all walk-in clinics are the same in terms of services or pricing. Even though the clinics will charge different prices, depending on location, the base prices range between $75 and $125. That is for the normal services and not specialized ones. You should expect to incur additional costs if you require a special service or medication such as a lab test, an X-ray, or an immunization shot. These may range between $50 and $150, again depending on location. Of course, these costs apply only when you are paying in cash as opposed to using your insurance policy. If you are walking in with insurance, on the other hand, you can expect to co-pay around $20-$50, depending on location, your plan and whether you are in network with the provider.

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  • Is insurance accepted at urgent care centers?

    Each insurer determines if their plans cover walk-in clinics or not. Your insurer may not cover that, which is the reason why you should always call ahead and be sure before walking in for treatment with your insurance plan. Most plans cover that though so it is highly likely that your nearest walk-in clinic will say yes when you call to find out if they accept insurance plans.

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