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Outpatient Services

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Topic Overview

What are outpatient services?

Outpatient services are medical procedures or tests that can be done in a medical center without an overnight stay. Many procedures and tests can be done in a few hours. Outpatient services include:

  • Wellness and prevention, such as counseling and weight-loss programs.
  • Diagnosis, such as lab tests and MRI scans.
  • Treatment, such as some surgeries and chemotherapy.
  • Rehabilitation, such as drug or alcohol rehab and physical therapy.

What are the benefits of choosing outpatient services?

Outpatient services usually cost less, because you don't need to stay overnight. Staff members at outpatient centers are well trained in the service they provide. Most of the time, these centers specialize in one kind of treatment or procedure. Often all the care you need can be provided in one place.

Who uses outpatient services?

Most people can choose an outpatient center instead of a hospital if the needed service is available. But not all medical procedures can or should be done at an outpatient center.

How can you find the right center?

Your doctor may recommend a center. You can also ask family or friends who have used outpatient services to tell you about their experiences.

To find the right center to provide the service you need, you'll need to ask some questions, such as:

  • Does the center take your health insurance? What costs will your insurance pay?
  • Will you get instructions before, during, and after a procedure or test?
  • Can you get all the care you need at the center?
  • Does your doctor think you may need emergency services during the procedure? Can the center treat your other problems if needed?
  • What kind of experience does the staff have? How long has the center been in business? Are the doctors certified to provide the care you need?
  • Will the outpatient center staff talk with your doctor and give needed information quickly?
  • Is the center clean, organized, comfortable, and private?

How can you know if the outpatient center is trustworthy?

Try to find out all you can about the outpatient center before you use it. It's a good idea to visit the center before you decide.

Many health and government agencies rate or report on the quality of outpatient centers. Check with your state's board of medicine or with your insurance company to learn more.

You can also use the Quality Check website from The Joint Commission. For more information, go to

Frequently Asked Questions

Learning about outpatient services:

Using outpatient services:

Finding an outpatient service center:


WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: September 09, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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