#6: Are free-standing emergency rooms and urgent care clinics required by law to provide certain services?

Service Requirements for Urgent Care Clinics 

In Colorado, there are no regulatory requirements for specific services to be offered in urgent care clinics. The level and range of services vary from clinic to clinic. The Urgent Care Association of America lists baseline primary care services as well as more specific care that extends beyond typical primary care, but these are not required.[1]

Service Requirements for Free-Standing Emergency Rooms 

In order to receive licensing, FSERs must meet certain service requirements. They do not need to offer exactly the same service options as hospital-based emergency rooms (ERs), but they are often very similar.

It is important to note that in Colorado, FSERs are subject to the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA).  Most hospitals in the United States are governed by EMTALA, which outlines, “when and how a patient may be refused treatment or transferred from one hospital to another when she/he is in an unstable medical condition.”[2]

The American College of Emergency Physicians outlines three obligations for hospitals under EMTALA: “

  1. All individuals arriving at a FSER be provided an appropriate medical screening examination (MSE) by qualified medical personnel to determine whether or not the individual needs emergency care;”
  2. If there is an emergency, treatment must be provided until the patient is stabilized;
  3. Patients must be transferred to another hospital if the capacity to treat the condition cannot be met; and
  4. Hospitals meeting capacity to treat transfers must accept transfers.[3]

Even when there is no emergency, emergency department and free-standing emergency room staff are required by law to “screen and stabilize” patients.


You have a right to be informed!  We hope this information will help you “know where to go” if the need arises.

[1] Urgent Care Association of America (UCAOA). (n.d.). Urgent care FAQ. Retrieved from http://www.ucaoa.org/page/faq Accessed January 29, 2016.

[2] Fosmire, M.S. (2009). Frequently asked questions about the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA). Retrieved from http://www.emtala.com/faq.htm Accessed February 15, 2016.

[3] American College of Emergency Physicians. (2014). News Media: EMTALA. Retrieved from http://www.acep.org/News-Media-top-banner/EMTALA/ Accessed February 15, 2016.

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