Also called ambulatory care, outpatient care is a medical treatment provided to patients who aren’t formally instructed by a doctor to stay in a medical facility, such as a hospital. The facility could be a private clinic, doctor’s office, community health center, retail clinic, urgent care center, public health clinic, ambulatory surgical center, dental office, rehabilitation center, oncology clinic, hospice, home healthcare, a hospital or a specific building within hospital campus.

In other words, the patient visits the medical facility, receives necessary medical treatment and leaves on the same day (at times, in a few hours). But there are instances when outpatient care is given to patients who don’t need inpatient treatment or hospitalization but nursing care for many hours, even overnight.

Scope

Generally, patients seeking outpatient care usually don’t have major medical care requirements. Outpatient care services could entail blood transfusions, laboratory tests, X-rays and similar radiation services, routine checkups or clinic visits, observation services, rehabilitation services (drug or alcohol addiction), etc. In fact, even some minor surgical services could go down as outpatient care. The surgery can be referred to as outpatient surgery, same-day surgery, or day surgery.

Benefits

Thanks to the cost-effectiveness and advancements in medical technology such as less invasive surgeries, the need for inpatient care has drastically come down over the years. Since there’s no hospitalization involved, the patient need not pay for lodging or facility. This has resulted in patients preferring outpatient care over inpatient care services.

Challenges

Not all hospitals and other medical facilities are equipped enough to offer quality outpatient care. First, there must be extensive learning about correct ambulatory care practice design and management. Most medical care facilities also do not have experienced people on the outpatient care side.