The common places we hear the words “inpatient” and “outpatient” are in the hospital, doctors' offices, and psychiatric settings. But what do these terms actually mean?
When the word inpatient is used it usually means a stay that requires a patient to be entered into the administration system of the facility and stay overnight at the facility. In the hospital setting, a patient can be inpatient for 24 hours or longer, whether for surgery or being admitted onto the floor for medical treatment. A doctor's office does not have inpatient. When referring to psychiatric facilities, it means a patient that is staying at that facility receiving psychiatric care – whether this is for short-term or long-term.
When the word “Outpatient” is used, it usually means a short visit to a medical facility to receive medical treatments that do not require the patient to stay overnight. This is more commonly seen in a visit to a doctor's office. In the hospital, outpatient services can include diagnostic tests, follow-up visits with surgeons, and even day surgeries. In the psychiatric setting, outpatient encompasses a vast amount of services, including therapy, follow-up appointments for medication refills, case management, etc. Case management can include speaking with a psychiatrist, group therapy, medication management with a nurse, and social services. This is all done on an outpatient basis.
An Easy Way to Tell the Difference Between Inpatient and Outpatient
If you’ve received some orders to get your blood drawn, then that is going to be done on an outpatient basis.
If you’re in the emergency room, chances are you’re wearing a hospital bracelet and are inpatient.