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What are the Different Types of Ambulatory Care?

Ambulatory care encompasses a wide range of health services provided to patients who do not require hospitalization. From urgent care centers and outpatient clinics to specialized surgical centers and home health services, these facilities offer convenient, cost-effective treatments. Discover how each type plays a pivotal role in modern healthcare. What type of ambulatory care could benefit you or your loved ones?
Maggie Worth
Maggie Worth

When people hear the term ambulatory in a health care setting, they often think of a care setting that moves, such as an ambulance. In terms of care, however, the term actually refers not to the fact that the care facility is mobile, but to the fact that the patient can leave the facility after treatment. Ambulatory care refers to any care that is provided on an outpatient basis. It includes any medical care for which the patient is not admitted for an overnight or longer stay. Common examples include physician office visits, physical or mental therapy sessions, outpatient surgeries and ancillary services such as radiology.

Visits to a physician's office may be the most frequently occurring instances of ambulatory care. This category includes visits for checkups, surgical follow-ups and blood work. It also includes visits for the diagnoses or treatment of illness or injury as well as periodic visits due to a managed condition, such as pregnancy. It applies to both family or general practitioners and also a wide range of specialists, such as dermatologists, cardiologists, obstetricians, podiatrists, orthopedists, gastroenterologists and urologists.

Mole removal is considered ambulatory care.
Mole removal is considered ambulatory care.

Surgical or semi-surgical procedures performed in a doctor's office are also examples of this type of care. This includes such procedures as the removal of an ingrown toenail, the removal of a suspicious mole or the insertion of a stabilizing pin into a broken bone. In a dentist's office, this might include a root canal or extraction of wisdom teeth.

Urgent care clinics are also ambulatory care facilities. This includes mini-clinics housed inside a drug store as well as free-standing clinics. It also includes clinics attached to hospitals and universities.

Ambulatory care refers to any care that is provided on an outpatient basis.
Ambulatory care refers to any care that is provided on an outpatient basis.

Specialty facilities, such as imaging centers that specialize in x-rays and MRI scans, also provide outpatient care. Similar facilities might specialize in blood work, urinalysis, dialysis, respiratory treatment or physical therapy. Outpatient psychotherapy is also considered ambulatory care and includes group and individual counseling sessions as well as non-residential drug and alcohol treatment.

Lab testing, like blood work and urinalysis, is ambulatory care.
Lab testing, like blood work and urinalysis, is ambulatory care.

Ambulatory care can also occur in a hospital setting. Patients are often checked into the hospital for outpatient surgery and released the same day. Examples can include gallbladder removal, orthopedic surgery and removal of cysts. These types of surgeries may also be performed in a free-standing ambulatory surgery center, which provides sterile, equipped space specifically for the performance of same-day surgeries.

Specialty facilities like imaging centers provide ambulatory care.
Specialty facilities like imaging centers provide ambulatory care.

Emergency room care is classified as ambulatory as long as the patient is not admitted to the hospital. Illness and injury treatment in the emergency room both qualify as types of ambulatory care. If a patient receives emergency treatment at a hospital and is then transferred to another hospital or care center, the first episode of care is also considered ambulatory.

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Discussion Comments

stoneMason

I had an inpatient procedure last week. I had a mole removed. I guess that's ambulatory care too.

At first, I thought that it might be painful, but the doctor used a local anesthetic, so there was no pain. The whole thing did not last more than ten minutes and I was out of there in no time. I'm so happy that I finally got rid of that mole. It had been bothering me for the longest time. If I knew that it was done quickly in ambulatory care, I would have had it removed a long time ago.

fify

I also thought that ambulatory care means care given in an ambulance. So I thought it was just the emergency treatment that is given until the patient reaches the hospital. The term "ambulatory" is misleading though, so it's not my fault.

bluedolphin

I receive ambulatory care often because I have diabetes. I go in frequently for prescription diabetes medications. I also go in every three months for blood work to check my three month blood sugar levels.

A few years ago, I had hypothyroidism, and I was required to go in once a month for blood work and doctor visit. My thyroid hormone levels were checked and medication was adjusted accordingly.

Ambulatory care, if it has to be consistent, can be annoying and tiring. But when people have chronic conditions like me, it's necessary.

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    • Mole removal is considered ambulatory care.
      By: Fly_dragonfly
      Mole removal is considered ambulatory care.
    • Ambulatory care refers to any care that is provided on an outpatient basis.
      By: kirillica
      Ambulatory care refers to any care that is provided on an outpatient basis.
    • Lab testing, like blood work and urinalysis, is ambulatory care.
      By: Darren Baker
      Lab testing, like blood work and urinalysis, is ambulatory care.
    • Specialty facilities like imaging centers provide ambulatory care.
      By: uwimages
      Specialty facilities like imaging centers provide ambulatory care.
    • Semi-surgical procedures like the removal of an ingrown nail can be considered ambulatory care.
      By: adam88xx
      Semi-surgical procedures like the removal of an ingrown nail can be considered ambulatory care.