Understanding the Difference between Inpatient Vs Outpatient Patient Care

People without any doubt have understood the significance of having health insurance now more than ever, and are partnering with insurance carriers to make their wellness a priority. Individuals like you are showing keen interest in managing their health by having the right health insurance plan still, there are some blind spots in health insurance terminology. Health insurance professionals master such lingo with their years of experience, and as health insurance consumers you also need to devote time to understand different health insurance terminology. Among the several insurance terminologies, you need to have a clear understanding of the distinction between inpatient versus outpatient care. You should not only be able to understand the difference but should also know why does it matter to you and other policyholders.


Major Difference between Inpatient and Outpatient


An inpatient is a person who is admitted to the hospital for the overnight stay and can also include a patient who stays for weeks in hospitals to recover from a complicated surgery. It also includes individuals who need a brief stay in hospitals, so that doctors can closely monitor them. Outpatient care or ambulatory care is any medical service that doesn’t require hospitalization, such as an annual exam with a primary care physician, or a consultation with a neurologist are examples of outpatient care. If a patient leaves the emergency department the same day they arrive, then he/she will be considered an outpatient. In addition to these, any appointment at a clinic, or a specialty facility outside the hospital is considered outpatient care.


Determination of Inpatient Vs Outpatient


Sometimes, physicians keep patients under observation, while they determine whether a patient requires hospitalization or not. This gives them a little more time to evaluate the patient and take the appropriate decision. There are instances when a patient remains under observation status for more than 24 hours. It is not the location that determines whether you are an inpatient or outpatient, but it is the duration of stay that determines your status.


Comparing Inpatient Vs. Outpatient Services


The types of healthcare treatments and medical services that are included in both types of care are:


Inpatient Care

  • Complex surgeries
  • Severe injuries
  • Delivering a baby
  • Medical issues or illnesses that require substantial monitoring
  • Rehabilitation services for psychiatric conditions


Outpatient Care

  • Minor surgeries
  • X-rays, MRI and other types of imaging
  • Colonoscopies
  • Routine physical exams
  • Consultations or follow-ups with a specialist
  • Same-day emergency care and stitches


Inpatient Vs Outpatient Healthcare Providers

Primary care physicians are considered outpatient providers, whereas healthcare specialists are considered inpatient physicians. Hospitals generally bridge the gap by providing general medical care to inpatients. Effective healthcare requires a team effort, and doctors need to work together, irrespective of their specialty and setting. Doctors generally divide their time between inpatient and outpatient services, for example, gynaecologist provides inpatient care when delivering babies, and outpatient care when offering consultation to pregnant women during their prenatal check-ups.


Cost Consideration for Inpatient Vs. Outpatient

Patients might be thinking that whether the difference between inpatient and outpatient care matters to them. The patient should keep in mind that their status might not influence the quality of medical care they receive, but it might affect their eventual bill. The outpatient care cost comprises of fees that are charged for any type of test performed, and fees related to the doctor. The cost of inpatient care includes facility-based fees along with the existing expenses. This cost ranges anywhere from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars, depending upon the stay duration, and the treatment procedure. The exact amount of inpatient care may also depend upon the patient’s insurance.

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