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There are many different types of medical services, and a lot of the delineation depends on locality and what’s available where. In general, though, services can be broken down into six main categories. Emergency services are what people seek in times of crisis, and are often the first line of patient care when it comes to injuries sustained through accident or trauma. Outpatient care deals with known conditions, and sometimes includes minor surgical procedures; preventative medicine is usually made up of primary care doctors who provide check-ups and referrals for patients who are otherwise healthy. Specialized services deal with specific conditions, like pregnancy and cancer treatment, or specific parts of the body, like the gastrointestinal system or the brain. Finally, hospice and palliative care cover the end of life and dying. In most systems there are also a range of administrative services, including billing and transcription.
Emergency services, often in the form of an ambulance with trained health care technicians, are usually dispatched to help people who need urgent care, such as people who have suffered a stroke or have been in a car crash. Additionally, teams of emergency physicians are usually stationed at hospitals or other medical centers to treat critically ill or injured patients upon arrival. Depending on the distance between the hospital and the person in need, emergency medical services may require the use of helicopters or boats for transporting sick people. These services are designed to provide immediate medical help to victims and to transport them to doctors as quickly as possible.
The emergency department of a hospital usually provides urgent treatment to patients with immediate medical needs, like those with serious or life-threatening conditions. People with the most severe injuries or illnesses are commonly treated first. These patients may require emergency surgery or hospitalization, but in some cases can be released after treatment. Most emergency departments operate day and night because of the critical nature of the services provided.
Outpatient services are medical treatments, procedures, or check-ups that take place at a doctor's private office, a clinic, or a hospital. These usually include a visit or consultation with a physician in order to discuss a patient's health. A person can also sometimes undergo minor surgery and be sent home on the same day. Such surgery can include suturing a wound, removing moles and warts, or treating varicose veins. Outpatient surgery is usually less costly than that which requires a hospital stay, and also allows patients to recover at home.
If a person is suffering from an injury or illness that prevents travel, a physician may make a home visit, also known as a “house call.” In a case like this, a doctor typically examines the patient and may administer medication or provide another type of treatment. Nurses or other healthcare professionals may also visit patients at home to monitor symptoms or progress.
Preventative care is often the most commonly utilized service under any system. The main idea here is to catch medical issues and diseases before they become really serious, usually through regular “well patient” visits — which is to say, check-ups and routine doctor visits even when nothing seems to be wrong. General practitioners (GPs) are the most common administrators of this sort of medicine, but some specialists provide routine check-ups, too.
When people talk about medical “specialties,” they usually mean fields of medicine that are focused on specific parts of the body or on certain discreet conditions. There are usually services that correspond to the work of each sort of specialist. Women who are pregnant usually seek out services specific to childbirth and delivery, for instance, whereas those who have been injured often look for physical therapists or reconstructive surgeons who can help them get back to life as usual. Some services deal with procedures like hip replacements, or with broad categories of treatment like heart surgery.
Hospice and Palliative Care
There is a special class of medical services for people have been diagnosed with terminal conditions and who are, at least from a medical standpoint, nearing the end of their lives. Palliative and hospice care provide for people in these situations. Most of these are residential medical facilities where the sick and dying can be provided with round-the-clock care while being surrounded by loved ones.
Not all medical services revolve around direct patient care. A lot of administrative work goes on in the background, particularly where billing and record keeping is concerned. Broadly speaking, medical billing is the record of a patient’s healthcare expenses for the treatment he or she received. It is the responsibility of a professional medical biller to determine the amount of money needed to reimburse the physician or hospital for services rendered, and usually also to “code” treatments and procedures in order to ensure both uniformity and accuracy. The methods of payment can vary, and sometimes depend on the type of insurance a patient has, if any.
Medical transcription is another type of service that happens outside of patient care. This process generally involves converting a doctor's voice recordings and audio patient records into text format. Medical transcriptionists (MTs), who may be hospital employees or independent contractors, typically listen to recordings and type the information into a computer database. Medical transcripts allow physicians to easily access a patient’s health record and ensure proper care.