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Outpatient care, what you need to know about outpatient care and your loved one

Understanding Outpatient Care

Suppose your loved one has to go to a medical care facility for a test or treatment. After the procedure is complete, they can go home as they do not need to stay overnight. Meaning they have gone through outpatient care.

Inpatient care vs. Outpatient care: What is the difference?

There are differences between both inpatient and outpatient care, and the main factor being time. Inpatient care involves patients having to stay overnight to be monitored by a healthcare team. In contrast, outpatient care does not require any stay. Both forms of care also differ in cost. Outpatient care would require payment for the procedure and physician fees. Inpatient care would also factor in the cost of the hospital stay.

What counts as Outpatient care?

Outpatient care can include a wide variety of medical care, as outpatient care has become much more common. Here are a few examples of outpatient care that are common:

  • Consultations with a specialist physician
  • Emergency care that doesn't need an overnight stay.
  • Lab tests such as bloodwork.
  • Imaging like MRIs and X-Rays.
  • Chemotherapy/radiation treatment

Outpatient care can also include surgeries, as some surgical procedures do not require an overnight stay. Here are some examples of outpatient surgeries:

  • Cataract Surgery
  • Caesarean Section
  • Knee/Hip Replacement
  • Liver and Lung Resections
  • Mediport Insertion or Removal

What is an Outpatient Care Center?

Outpatient care centers can provide a wide range of services or specialize in specific forms of diagnosis or treatment. Here are some examples:

  • Medical group practices
  • An outpatient clinic at a hospital or a medical care facility.
  • Surgery centers.
  • Imaging centers.
  • Specialist centers for cardiac and gastrointestinal services.
  • Durable medical equipment rental facilities

How to prepare for outpatient care

Now that you have an idea of how outpatient care functions. We want to give guidelines and tips to help you and your loved one prepare for an outpatient care procedure or surgery. 

Preparations to make beforehand

  • Talk with your doctor regarding your loved one's medications and allergies. They will give instructions to follow before the procedure regarding medication changes, whether fasting is needed, avoiding alcohol and tobacco, and any other points. You can always call your doctor's office and ask questions regarding these points.
  • The doctor may also prescribe antibiotics to help prevent infection for specific procedures. In this case, be sure to fill the prescriptions and follow their directions.
  • Avoid using deodorant, lotion, or perfume on the day of the procedure. The doctor may ask your loved one to bathe with antibacterial soap or solution. There is no need to shave, as any shaving will be done on the day by the medical team.
  • Leave personal items like piercings, valuables, jewelry, contact lenses behind. You and your loved one won't be concerned about losing them. If your loved one needs glasses, be sure to prepare a case for them as well.
  • Prepare your loved one's insurance card and photo ID, as the medical care facility will need these on the procedure day. You can also complete other documents such as an advance directive and health care proxy in advance.
  • Ensure you have time to be with your loved one as you will be looking after your loved one before and after their procedure. The medical facility may not even take in your loved one for their procedure if they do not have a person accompanying them home. You can be busy for the entire day, and you will not want anything interfering.
  • It would help if you also prepared transportation and any medical equipment, especially if your loved one needs a wheelchair or walker.

On the day of outpatient care

  • It would be best for your loved one to wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes. It will be convenient for the medical team and easier for your loved one.
  • Your loved one will check in with their photo ID and insurance information. After checking in, it would be time to wait for the procedure.
  •  When it's their turn, they will move into the preoperative (pre-op) area, where a nurse will prepare them for their procedure. If the procedure is a surgery, an anesthesiologist, your doctor, or other medical team members may talk with your loved one at this time.
  • The care team will take steps to ensure your loved one remains as safe as possible during their procedure. You might have nurses run through a checklist and verify everything. Hygiene is vital as everyone, including you, should have clean hands.

After the procedure is completed

  • After your loved one has completed their procedure, the medical team will take them to a care area to ensure they are recovering well. It would be best if you took this time to ask the medical team any questions about your loved one's procedure and the following steps to take for their recovery.
  • Once your loved one has recovered, meaning any pain and nausea is under control, stable vitals and any anesthesia has worn off. They will be discharged. You will have to help your loved one with any written instructions. These instructions usually include medication schedules, things to avoid, and possible complications. There will also be a note of when to follow up with your doctor, along with contact details.
  • The list of things to avoid would include strenuous activities, driving, and operating heavy machinery or equipment for at least 24 hours. Certain foods and any medications can affect their recovery, along with alcoholic beverages.
  • It would also be best for your loved one to avoid signing any legal documents for at least 24 hours after a surgical procedure.
  • If your loved one had surgery, the medical team would give instructions on caring for the wound. An example is checking your loved one for any symptoms of infection. These can include Red, swollen skin that may feel painful, sore, or hot. High temperatures/fever or generally unwell feeling. Green or yellow-colored discharge (pus). 
  • Be sure to practice good hygiene whenever possible to aid in your loved one's recovery during this time.
  • If any complications come up, be sure to contact the medical center with any steps to take. The medical staff will also inform you if an emergency visit for your loved one needs to be done.

Why is it important to know what to expect?

It is vital to understand outpatient care because more and more medical procedures are moving to outpatient care and do not require inpatient care. At some point, your loved one may need to go through outpatient care, whether for checkups, screenings, treatments, or surgeries.

Being well prepared for these procedures will help ease your loved one. Any medical procedure can be stressful and uncomfortable for them. Reducing any complications beforehand can make their comfort and care much more manageable.

We hope this article leaves you and your loved one with a better understanding of outpatient care.


Why are outpatient services so popular?

There are multiple reasons for outpatient care services becoming so prevalent in today's healthcare.

  • Consumers prefer outpatient facilities because of their convenience. It is much easier to access care at a nearby facility.
  • Facilities that focus on outpatient care services can charge less than hospitals making outpatient services much more affordable.
  • With the advancements in technology, outpatient care is possible on the scale that exists now. Minimally invasive surgeries allow once complicated procedures to be done at outpatient facilities.
  • Telehealth systems allow for better home recovery after surgeries as doctors can virtually check in with their patients.

What surgery has the shortest recovery time?

Vasectomies and appendectomies have the shortest average recovery times. Both are relatively standard procedures, with the average recovery time of vasectomy being less than a week and taking about twenty to thirty minutes to complete. In contrast, an appendectomy's average time is a week at a minimum and takes about an hour to complete. 

What are the most common outpatient surgeries?

The number of outpatient procedures performed in America has increased to more than 54 million a year. Here are a few of the most common outpatient surgeries that contribute to that large number:

  • Cataract surgery is needed when a patient's natural eye lens becomes cloudy. The surgery involves replacing the natural lens with an artificial one to help clear their vision. People can usually go home shortly after the surgery. Half of all Americans develop one by the time they reach the age of eighty.
  • Minor joint repairs like operations on the hands, wrists, and ankles help with sports-related injuries. People with arthritis need surgeries on their hands and wrists to replace tendons or even joints.
  • Skin therapies do not require hospital stays for the most part. The treatments can include removing skin cancers, laser surfacing to correcting wrinkles, scars, sagging skin, and acne.

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