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Over the last month, we’ve dedicated space on this blog to startups. We’ve explored the cost, finding a location, and some simple things to think about when you’re launching an urgent care. Now it’s time to talk about certification and accreditation.

You’ve chosen the perfect location, hired urgent care-focused providers, and started rolling out marketing to appeal to consumers in your area. Your startup checklist is almost complete. But before you see the first patient, do yourself a big favor that will have long-term positive consequences—get certified.

Certification is the industry’s seal of approval.

Certification gives your new urgent care clinic legitimacy. And more importantly, helps you win the initial trust of new patients with marketing materials that display the industry seal of approval. But maybe the most important reason to get certified is that payers are increasingly requiring certification and/or accreditation as part of their contracting process.

Certification is also a way for the industry to define the parameters of urgent care.

The Urgent Care Association of America (UCAOA) offers four primary and one add-on category of pre-opening certification for both members and non-members of the trade organization. This certification will assure patients your clinic offers legitimate urgent care services on-site. The five categories are:

  • Traditional/Comprehensive
  • Rural
  • Seasonal
  • Pediatric
  • Add-on Occupational Medicine

Certification is granted per-clinic and is based on the scope of clinical delivery, medical supervision, services offered (such as radiology and phlebotomy), physical space, and hours of operation among others.

Applications are available on the UCAOA website and must be submitted within a six-month period of the facility’s opening date. The process is pretty simple—it requires a fee and the submission of documentation that confirms your business purpose and clinic capabilities.

As long as your clinic meets the defined urgent care standards and you send the application about six months out from your opening day, you should be designated as a certified urgent care before you see your first patient.

Accreditation is the industry’s gold standard.

Where certification is about definition and designation, accreditation is about differentiation and distinction. Accreditation distinguishes urgent care clinics by authenticating the excellence of their practices and procedures. For this reason, it’s not something that can be achieved prior to opening.

To be accredited, an urgent care must demonstrate its commitment to provide an exceptional patient experience with a focus on quality, safety, and exceptional clinic outcomes.

But accreditation is more than just a rubber stamp. When an urgent care clinic adopts and implements best practices, they are likely to experience unexpected efficiencies resulting in higher patient satisfaction, financial savings, and better clinic outcomes—and everybody wins.

With more and more payers across the country requiring accreditation before contracting or admitting a clinic to the network, and the growing competition for consumer healthcare dollars, it’s a step worth taking once your urgent care is up and running.

Once an urgent care is accredited, the accreditation is valid for multiple locations within an organization.

Be the best that you can be.

As the urgent care business grows to fill a very important place on the healthcare landscape, it’s important to make choices, implement processes, and adopt practices that set you apart from the competition. Through certification and accreditation, you can differentiate yourself and launch your business with confidence. It will pay off with happy patients and a better bottom line.

If you want advice about preparing documents for certification or need guidance to get accredited, hire an urgent care consultant to help you take you through the process.


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