Dec 14, 2023

The Difference Between Inpatient and Outpatient Care


Nowadays, many people are proactive in staying informed about the different conditions and treatments. However, a common point of confusion for many is understanding the difference between inpatient and outpatient care.

            For patients, knowing the difference is essential when it comes to managing their health care, health plan, or preparing for medical expenses. For medical students, it allows them to understand which path to take in their career.

            So what’s the difference between inpatient and outpatient care? Let’s explore!

What is Inpatient Care?

            Inpatient care means the procedure or treatment requires the patient to be admitted in the facility for at least one night, and sometimes more depending on the condition. This is essential for patients who need close monitoring during the procedure and while on recovery.

            Once the doctor has assessed that the patient no longer requires inpatient care, they will be discharged from the facility. They can still get instructions from different doctors, including prescription medication, follow-up check-ups, and other outpatient services.

            Inpatient care includes:

  • Childbirth
  • Chronic diseases that require specialized treatment and on-going care
  • Complex and routine surgeries
  • Extensive cosmetic procedures
  • Mental health issues (treatment for overdoses and substance use disorders)
  • Rehabilitation services (psychiatric conditions, severe injuries, and substance misuse)
  • Serious illnesses (flu, heart attack, stroke)
  • Traumatic injuries

What is Outpatient Care?

            Outpatient care (also known as ambulatory care) is any medical procedure or treatment that doesn’t require hospitalization or close monitoring.

            This usually includes annual exams with primary care physicians, consultations with surgeons, appointments outside of the hospital, or some emergent cases where you’ll be allowed to go home the same day you arrive.

            There are some cases though that people who intends to receive outpatient care are move to inpatient. For instance, if you come in for some lab tests, but results suggest you may need close monitoring, a physician may recommend that you stay in for the night.

            This type of medical care can be provided in community centers, doctor’s office, hospitals, outpatient surgery centers, or walk-in clinics.

            Outpatient care includes:

  • Consultations or follow-ups with a specialist
  • CT Scans, MRIs, X-rays, and other types of imaging
  • Diagnostic or lab tests
  • Long-term treatment (chemotherapy, dialysis, and other radiation treatment)
  • Medical screenings (colonoscopy, endoscopy, mammogram)
  • Minor surgeries (hand or foot surgery, laser surgery, Lasik eye surgery, mole removal)
  • Oral surgeries and other dental procedures
  • Routine physical exams and check-ups
  • Same-day emergency care

Ultimately, the difference between inpatient and outpatient care is not the location of the care, but duration of a patient’s stay in the facility. Inpatient care requires at least an overnight stay under a supervision of a nurse or doctor. Outpatient care, on the other hand, entails leaving the clinic, hospital, or doctor’s office once the procedure is done (or as advised to do so).

            If you need help obtaining inpatient or outpatient clinical clerkships C.H.H.A is here to help. We provide hands-on training and preparation services to help you develop a competitive U.S. residency application and ensure your medical success.

            Contact us today to learn more!

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