What is outpatient care?

Outpatient care refers to any healthcare consultation, procedure, treatment, or other service that is administered without an overnight stay in a hospital or medical facility. Routine physical examinations with a primary care provider are one common type of outpatient care, but the outpatient market has grown to include services like:

  • Diagnostic imaging like x-rays and MRIs
  • Bloodwork and urine tests
  • Physical therapy
  • Colonoscopies
  • Mammograms
  • Chemotherapy and radiation treatments
  • Certain surgical procedures like hip and knee replacements, dental surgery, gastric bypass, breast augmentation, and others can even be performed in the outpatient setting.

These services are administered in a variety of different outpatient facilities. Some examples include primary care clinics, community health centers, urgent care clinics, ambulatory surgery centers, and even some pharmacies for basic healthcare consultations and immunizations.

Why is outpatient care important?

One of the greatest benefits of outpatient care is that it is more cost-effective than many inpatient services. An overnight hospital stay can often come at a great expense to the patient, and likely demands more healthcare resources—from hospital labor to surgical supplies, medical equipment, beds, and food—than an outpatient procedure.

Outpatient care also ensures that patients can recover from treatments or surgical procedures in the comfort of their own homes. This not only results in an improved patient experience but also reduces the risk of hospital-acquired conditions or healthcare-associated infections