Inpatient vs Outpatient Care: What Is The Difference?
With the abundance of healthcare information and resources available today, many patients take action to stay educated about conditions and treatments. Still there are aspects of medical care that may cause confusion for many patients. The difference between inpatient and outpatient care is often misunderstood. Many patients wonder what exactly the difference is and why it is essential to recognize the distinction between the two.
COMPARING INPATIENT VS OUTPATIENT CARE
The basic difference between inpatient and outpatient care is that inpatient care requires a patient to stay in a hospital overnight and outpatient does not. If you receive inpatient care, you will be monitored by a healthcare team in a hospital throughout your treatment and recovery. Outpatient care, also called ambulatory care, does not require hospitalization.
Cost of care is another main difference between the inpatient and outpatient treatment. In outpatient care, you pay only for physician fees and the cost of tests and treatments. Inpatient care includes the cost of a hospital stay. Inpatient care can cost anywhere from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars depending on the length of stay and types of treatments. A study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that 20 conditions account for almost half of all inpatient care costs. Some of the most expensive inpatient conditions include:
- Septicemia (bloodstream infection)
- Newborn births and care
- Heart attack and heart failure
- Spondylopathies (disorders of the vertebrae)
- Respiratory failure
- Hip fracture
- Complications from surgery or medical care
EXAMPLES OF INPATIENT AND OUTPATIENT CARE
Most people experience some form of outpatient care every year. For example, your annual physical or going to a hospital for a colonoscopy are types of outpatient services. Other common types of outpatient care include:
- Bloodwork and other lab tests
- MRIs, X-Rays or any other types of imaging
- Chemotherapy/radiation treatment
- Consultations with a specialist physician
- Emergency care that doesn’t require hospitalization
Patients undergoing inpatient care tend to have serious, sometimes life-threatening conditions. Depending on the severity of their condition, some patients may stay in the hospital for a few weeks while others stay only a couple of days. Examples of inpatient care include:
- Rehabilitation services
- Serious Illnesses that require a patient to be monitored overnight in a hospital
INPATIENT VS OUTPATIENT PHYSICIANS
In general, primary care physicians practice outpatient care and specialists provide inpatient care, but most physicians can treat patients in both settings. For example, your family physician will provide outpatient treatment for routine conditions, but also will coordinate with specialist doctors on inpatient care. If you have an oncologist, the doctor can provide cancer care as either an inpatient or outpatient service depending on the procedure. Psychiatrists also work in a variety of patient care settings. They see patients in their office for routine appointments and can also care for psychiatric patients who have been hospitalized.
Prospective doctors have the option to choose whether they want to work in an inpatient or outpatient setting or even a combination of both. American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine provides students with a solid foundation for whichever career path they decide to choose.