Outpatient ambulatory care is any medical care that takes place in a single day in a doctor's office, clinic or hospital. The patient is registered and discharged on the same day. Types of treatment range from simple surgeries, dental care and routine medical exams to numerous types of diagnostic testing. Outpatient care is designed to reduce the cost of medical treatment by eliminating the need for overnight stays and to allow patients to return to their commitments as quickly as possible.
For minor surgical procedures that do not require observation or prolonged anesthesia, outpatient ambulatory care provides an ideal setting for treatment. These surgeries may include dermatological procedures like mole removal, ear, nose and throat surgery, laser eye treatments and minor orthopedic procedures. With advances in medical technology, such surgeries do not require complex incisions or sedation, and thus patients are able to go home the same day with a very low risk of complications.
Most visits to a doctor's office or dental group are considered outpatient care. Treatments include routine check ups to look for common conditions and signs of problems, and consultations regarding specific symptoms. Outpatient ambulatory care encompasses many different types of medical specialties including gynecology, cardiology, internal medicine, pediatrics and endocrinology.
One of the most common reasons for outpatient care is diagnostic testing, which encompasses any type of test used to diagnose a medical condition or highlight an abnormality in the body. Examples of diagnostic testing available through outpatient ambulatory care include x-rays, MRIs, various blood tests, mammograms and biopsies. Others are sonograms, fetal screenings, ECG heart assessments and colonoscopies. Many of these tests are performed in clinics specializing in a particular area. These centers are often complete with state of the art equipment that a general physician's office likely would not possess.
Outpatient care is often preferable because it reduces healthcare costs for both insurance companies and individuals. In urgent but non-life-threatening situations, ambulatory care is often faster and more convenient than a visit to the emergency room. One of the greatest concerns as outpatient care has increased over the years is patient safety. Although most procedures have a very low risk of side effects or complications, issues may be more difficult to treat in clinics and offices without expansive supplies of emergency equipment and pharmaceuticals. Adequate training and preparation are necessary to ensure the safety of all patients receiving outpatient care.