There are various outpatient care settings which can perform any number of medical functions. Whenever possible, it is often in your best interest to choose an outpatient setting over a hospital. You might find it is less expensive, but you receive a similar level of care.
Since most doctor's offices do not have an on-site laboratory or radiology department, they will refer you to another setting for diagnostic tests. Depending on the types of facilities available within your doctor's network and your insurance, you may be referred to a hospital, outpatient care center, or separate laboratory. Make sure you understand what is covered by your insurance so you are paying the least out-of-pocket. Generally, it will be less expensive to have your diagnostic tests and imaging through an outpatient center than a hospital. If you are self-pay, some hospitals or other medical facilities might have certain blood tests that can be requested without a doctor's order. You might find it is less expensive to pay for these tests with cash than be referred to another facility and wait for the bill.
Mental Health Services
In some situations, it is essential to have mental health services rendered in an in-patient setting. For example, if someone is suicidal or has acute psychosis, they will need treatment in the hospital or a behavioral health facility for acute stabilization. Otherwise, you might find some outpatient services are a better compromise between the expense associated with in-patient care and the less rigorous treatment associated with weekly or monthly visits to a mental health professional. Outpatient services are ideal when you need intensive therapy and medication management, but are trying to maintain your family life or job. You might visit the facility each day for individual and/or group counseling. Additionally, there might be weekly visits to a psychiatrist to manage medications, which can include lab work for certain types of medication. Since you are seeing a psychiatrist frequently, it might be easier to find the right medication and the right dose quicker.
Many surgical procedures that required an in-patient stay can be performed via outpatient care centers. This means the price for services is generally lower, and you can go home the same day. Exploratory surgery is commonly performed as an outpatient procedure. Due to the use of minimally invasive techniques, many gynecological and orthopedic surgeries take little time to perform and the recovery is relatively mild. Typically, you will arrive at the outpatient center early in the morning and are usually released in the afternoon or evening if all goes well. Whenever possible, most people prefer this option, not only because of the decreased expense, but because they can recover at home. If you have surgery, it might also be less expensive to have someone come into your home for wound care or other minor medical issues than it would be to stay in the hospital longer.
Although outpatient centers cannot handle all medical issues, there are several situations where you should opt for outpatient services.