The Difference Between Retail Health Clinics and Urgent Care Centers


| 3 min read

The difference between retail and urgent care
When you aren’t feeling your best and want to get health care quickly, knowing where to go can make all the difference - especially when your primary care doctor isn’t available. Urgent care centers are a common choice, but retail health clinics are also growing in popularity. Both are great choices when it’s not an emergency, but there are some differences to be aware of. Retail health clinics: Retail health clinics are good for vaccinations and when you’re experiencing mild symptoms, like itchy eyes or a sore throat, that can be easily diagnosed and treated. These clinics are usually found inside common retailers, like your supermarket pharmacy or local drugstore. You can walk in without an appointment or hold your place in line to be seen by a nurse practitioner or physician assistant. Trips to a retail health clinic tend to be lower in cost and take an average of 30 minutes from start to finish. Many of these clinics offer evening and weekend hours, meaning you can go there when your primary care doctor’s office is closed. By logging into your member account, you can find a retail health clinic near you. Urgent care centers: Able to offer lab and diagnostic services, urgent care centers can be a good choice if you are experiencing more moderate symptoms, such as an earache, and need immediate relief. These stand-alone centers are good places to go for care during off-hours, since most are open late and on weekends. Similar to retail health clinics, you can simply walk into an urgent care center without an appointment. Log into your member account to find the nearest urgent care center. When might a retail health clinic or urgent care center be a good choice? Look at these common scenarios and the following examples for when one of these locations might be a good choice:
  1. Eye Irritation: You are on the road for a family vacation and your child’s eye has become red and itchy. Since you’re no longer close to home where you could see your primary care doctor, retail health or urgent care could be a good choice. You may be able to easily find one along your route.
  2. Feeling a Cold Coming On: A bug has been going around the office and you wake up one morning with a sore throat and congestion. You aren’t in immediate pain, but you know you need to see someone before you get to work. If you can’t get a walk-in appointment with your primary care doctor and you need quick relief, a retail health clinic or urgent care center might be able to help. You’ll be able to speak with a medical professional before you have to clock-in.
  3. Late Night Earache: Your child can’t fall asleep because of pain and has fluid draining from the ear. You recognize the symptoms as an ear infection, but the pediatrician’s office is closed and treatment can’t wait. Retail health clinics and urgent care centers are often open late, so you can rest easy knowing your child will be feeling better soon without having to wait for an appointment.
Learn more about your choices when it’s not an emergency at If you found this post helpful, you might also be interested in:
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