Why Is Outpatient Care Important?

What Is Outpatient Service?

Outpatient care, also known as ambulatory care, is any medical service you can get without a hospital stay. If the patient is not sick or injured enough to require round the clock care, ambulatory care is usually the best option. Some examples of care commonly performed on an outpatient basis are lab and imaging diagnostic testing, rehabilitation services, and some disease treatments. As the population of the United States ages, the demand for ambulatory care will continue to rise.

Where Are Outpatient Services Provided?

While ambulatory care can take place in a hospital with a dedicated outpatient department, it takes place in many settings:

  • Primary care offices, where patients go for routine and non-emergency care, often provide many ambulatory services. These offices do a significant amount of diagnostic testing as they are responsible for referring patients to specialists as needed. Family doctors, obstetricians/gynecologists, and pediatrician practices are common locations where patients receive outpatient services.

  • Community clinics serve areas with limited healthcare resources. They usually serve patients who have no insurance, low income, and the homeless.

  • Urgent care clinics, also called walk-in clinics, offer services to people who are too sick or injured to wait for an appointment with a primary care clinic but not in poor enough condition to justify a visit to the emergency room.

  • Outpatient clinics specialize in a particular area of medicine, such as cardiology, wound care, or chemotherapy treatments. Primary care providers refer patients to outpatient clinics for procedures outside the routine.

  • Pharmacies, known by most people as places to pick up medication, now offer flu shots, blood pressure checks, and patient education opportunities.

Some of the other locations where patients receive outpatient care are home healthcare, school health clinics, and employer clinics.

Why Is Outpatient Care Important?

Outpatient care is an essential part of the healthcare system and has many benefits for patients and payors alike:

  • Outpatient care is much less expensive than a hospital stay because you won't incur charges for the use of the room and related fees.

  • With outpatient services, patients recover at home instead of staying in the hospital.

  • Patients who receive care in an outpatient setting are at lower risk for hospital-acquired infections.

  • Most payors reimburse hospitals more for outpatient services than for inpatient care. Elective outpatient procedures are either paid for by private insurance companies or out of pocket by the patient.

  • Outpatient care facilities are located conveniently in most neighborhoods so that patients, staff, and providers can reach them easily.

  • Outpatient facilities are less expensive to operate because most are open only during weekday business hours; there's no need to operate machinery, open a building, or staff three shifts.

How Can St. Anthony’s Behavioral Health Hospital Help?

St. Anthony's Behavioral Health Hospital provides safe, compassionate, integrated support for patients 50 and older who are experiencing mental health difficulties. We work with families to help improve the quality of life for patients while maintaining dignity and self-esteem. If you or someone you love is struggling with behavioral health needs, including dementia and cognitive decline, contact St. Anthony's today. Our friendly and professional admissions team is ready to help, along with our physicians, psychiatrists, and specially trained nurses and support staff. If you're unsure whether your loved one's challenges are related to normal aging or signs of a more serious problem, consult our online mental health checklist.