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What are Ancillary Services?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Ancillary services are specialty services health care providers can use to serve the needs of specific patient populations. They include everything from nutrition education to diagnostic medical imaging. A practice may offer them on site as part of a plan to meet patient needs at one central location, or a patient may need to travel to a hospital or clinic to access ancillary services. People working in this field include doctors, nurses, and medical technicians.

Some services are diagnostic in nature. Most doctors do not run their own imaging studies, blood tests or urinalysis tests. Instead they refer a patient to a facility where people specialize in these activities to get rapid and accurate results. In a hospital, doctors can request services for hospitalized patients to diagnose patients and monitor them for signs of complications.

Therapeutic services include things that will improve patient health and well being. Physical therapy is an example, as are things like speech therapy and psychotherapy. If a patient needs services such as nutrition education or assistance with learning to cope with a chronic illness, the health counselor is offering an ancillary service, providing support for the patient by request from the patient's primary care provider. Cosmetic services may also be part of this category under some definitions. Patients receiving things like facials, Botox treatments, and skin care advice are benefiting from an ancillary service.

Custodial services are those involving patient care. This includes home health visits and nursing homes. Patients may need these ancillary services during recovery from serious illness or injury, or could require them for life as a result of illness or disability. People working in this area of the medical field support patients and keep them as independent as possible. They can also provide respite care to family members who may not be able to offer full-time care to people with illnesses, injuries, or disabilities.

In all of these services, the goal is to provide complete patient care and support for a doctor or medical team working to provide treatment. These services free up doctors to focus on working directly with patients, and they also provide patients with access to the best care possible. Training for technicians in some of these fields is lengthy, and in the end they can offer better treatment than a regular doctor. An orthopedic surgeon, for example, cannot offer physical therapy to a patient recovering from surgery because the training for these two professions is very different.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a TheHealthBoard researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By cloudel — On Jan 15, 2013

I always dreaded hearing that I needed to go to a hospital for ancillary services. I hated having CT scans, but I have had several of them in my life because my doctor deemed it necessary.

I have a kidney condition that makes cysts grow on my kidneys and puts me at a higher risk of getting kidney cancer than most people. So, my doctor wants me to have a scan every three years.

I know it's necessary, but there is something so intimidating about going to the hospital for something more complicated than what my doctor could do in his office. Maybe it's because there are so many truly sick people there, or maybe it's knowing that something bad might show up on my scan.

By kylee07drg — On Jan 15, 2013

I didn't know that in-home care fell under the ancillary services definition. I always thought that those companies were sort of an independent service, but then again, I've never had need of their services, so for all I know, you could need a doctor's referral to get them.

By giddion — On Jan 14, 2013

@feasting – I can remember a few years ago when my doctor didn't have the capability of testing my blood at her office. She gave me some paperwork and sent me to the hospital, which was just across the street.

I had to go into the lab to get my blood drawn and tested. I could see all the test tubes and lab devices all around.

I believe that they sent the results to my doctor, and she called me later to tell me about them. Hospitals generally report back to the doctor who sent you instead of calling you directly.

By feasting — On Jan 14, 2013

So, an ancillary service is basically something that isn't offered at your doctor's office, right? I know that some medical clinics don't have the equipment to do blood testing or urinalysis, so they send people elsewhere. I never knew this type of service actually had a name, though.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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