The Difference Between Inpatient and Outpatient Care

Posted on March 14, 2017

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Medical treatments and surgeries can be categorized into inpatient and outpatient procedures. For patients, it’s important to understand the difference between these two types of care, because they impact the length of a patient’s stay in a medical facility and the cost of a procedure.

Inpatient Care and Outpatient Care

The difference between an inpatient and outpatient care is how long a patient must remain in the facility where they have the procedure done.

Inpatient care requires overnight hospitalization. Patients must stay at the medical facility where their procedure was done (which is usually a hospital) for at least one night. During this time, they remain under the supervision of a nurse or doctor.

Patients receiving outpatient care don’t need to spend a night in a hospital. They're free to leave the doctor’s office, outpatient clinic or hospital once the procedure is over. Sometimes, they need to wait while anesthesia wears off or to make sure there aren’t any complications. As long as there aren’t any serious complications, though, patients don’t have to spend the night being supervised.

The Advantages of Outpatient Care

Not spending one or more nights in a medical facility has two main benefits for patients.

First, patients are able to recover in the comfort of their own home. Instead of remaining in an uncomfortable bed and sterile room, they can find a comfortable position on their couch, chair or bed and enjoy an activity of their choice. They even can enjoy their own food rather than hospital food. (Of course, any activity or food must not contradict restrictions that are given by a healthcare provider.)

Second, outpatient procedures almost always cost less than comparable inpatient procedures. Staying in a hospital overnight for observation isn’t cheap, and patients can save a lot by recovering at home instead of in a hospital room. Even patients who have good health insurance can still see significant savings by electing to have an outpatient procedure rather than an inpatient one. In many cases, the difference between outpatient and inpatient care is thousands of dollars.

Consider Outpatient Care

Thanks to advances in medical techniques and technology, many treatments, such as physical rehabilitation, can be done as outpatient care. Some minor surgeries can also be performed as outpatient procedures. Major surgeries, such as joint replacements that must be done by an orthopedic surgeon, still require hospitalization. Lots of procedures don’t require overnight stays anymore, though.

If you need to undergo a treatment or surgery, contact us at PBMC Health to find out whether outpatient care is an option for you. If it is, electing to undergo an outpatient procedure could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars.

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