A walk-in clinic is a medical facility that accepts patients with no appointment required. A number of healthcare service providers fall under the walk-in clinic umbrella including urgent care centers, retail clinics and even many free medical facilities or community health clinics. Walk-in clinics offer the advantages of being accessible and often inexpensive.
Urgent care clinics are usually led by physicians. The much smaller category of retail clinics, located inside large retail stores or shopping malls, tend to be headed by nurse practitioners. All types of walk-in clinics provide basic medical services, such as routine vaccinations, evaluation of cold and flu symptoms, and treatment for less severe physical injuries. Emergency care centers normally provide more services, such as X-ray testing for broken bones. Access to the patient's regular medical records depends on the agreements that the clinic has with other organizations. For example, a walk-in clinic that is part of or affiliated with a hospital may have full access to all the medical records belonging to the larger institution, while an independent walk-in clinic may not have to access any patient records except those related to previous visits. This lack of access can prevent healthcare providers from recognizing chronic problems.