Any kind of medical treatment received outside of a hospital admission is considered ambulatory care, or outpatient care. This category of healthcare is growing very quickly; in fact, it is the fastest growing health care market in the US! Outpatient services are growing in popularity for two main reasons. First, they are less expensive than hospitals, which have much higher overhead costs. The second reason is that medical improvements have made outpatient services far more practical. The quality of home health care through technology and nursing services allow patients who would have had to be in a hospital receive the necessary care at home.
Up to 75% of surgical procedures in the US take place in the more than 5,000 outpatient surgical centers. (There was a 300% increase between 1996 and 2006, the last time a survey was made. More on that in our next post.) Add to this the number of scans, tests, dialysis sessions, chemotherapy treatments, and other procedures and you begin to see the vast numbers of individuals receiving medical care at ambulatory care facilities. As more and more of us choose these outpatient services for increasingly complex procedures, it is all the more important to learn about this critical area of health care.