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Outpatient Services (cont.)

Types of Outpatient Services

More and more medical procedures are being offered in qualified outpatient service centers.

Outpatient services are offered in many settings. For instance, medical schools often provide various types of outpatient services, such as pain clinics or rehabilitation centers. Other types of outpatient facilities include:

  • Medical group practices.
  • Outpatient clinics at hospitals or other medical facilities.
  • Surgery centers.
  • Imaging centers.
  • Cardiac catheterization centers.
  • Mental or behavioral health centers, which may provide substance abuse treatment services and mental health services for adults or children.
  • Lab centers.
  • Gastrointestinal centers, which may provide screening or other services such as colonoscopy and endoscopy.
  • Durable medical equipment rental facilities.
  • Physical therapy centers.
  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy centers.

Many outpatient service centers specialize in a specific area of medicine, such as orthopedics (bones) or cardiology (heart). These centers, like many hospitals, have advanced equipment and highly trained staff.

Important Considerations

There are many benefits to outpatient services, depending on the type of medical procedure you need and on what you prefer.

  • Outpatient services can be cost-effective. Often, the procedure that you need may cost less at an outpatient service center than at a hospital, especially since you are not billed for separate hospital services. Outpatient service centers do not require an overnight stay. This can reduce costs.
  • Outpatient service centers usually specialize in one type of treatment or procedure. And the staff usually has a lot of experience that is focused on the procedure you need. Also, the equipment and techniques used may be the most advanced.
  • Outpatient services may be more convenient for you. All of the care that you need before, during, and after the procedure, surgery, or test may be conveniently provided in one place.

When choosing an outpatient facility, consider:

  • The reputation and quality of the center. What do you know about the care offered by the facility? Learning about the particular center before the procedure may prevent you from receiving poor care. For more information about finding out the quality of an outpatient facility, see the Quality of Outpatient Services section of this topic.
  • The center's ability to access emergency equipment. Does the center have all of the possible equipment and knowledge it needs to treat you in case of an emergency during your procedure, test, or surgery—such as problems with anesthesia during surgery or your newborn needing intensive care after delivery? If you have other health conditions, you may be at higher risk for needing emergency care.
  • The center's connection to a major hospital, in case you need emergency care, and how far away the hospital is.
  • The center's level of follow-up care. Find out if the center offers follow-up care or designates someone to care for you after the procedure, surgery, or test—even after the center is closed. Will you receive clear, written instructions on how to care for yourself after your visit? Follow-up care can be an important part of appropriate health care.
  • The center's location. Is the facility close enough that if you need to return for additional care, you can get there without too much inconvenience? Is there a center located closer to you that offers the same service?
  • The type of communication that will be available to your doctor. Will the facility send all test results and reports to your doctor? If a center does not communicate well, it will be a struggle to get helpful information to your doctor. Talk with your doctor and others who have used the center to find out whether the staff will communicate well with you and your doctor.
  • Your insurance coverage. Does your health plan provide coverage for the outpatient service center? If the center is not covered, you risk having to pay more for the services.
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