Medicine
Fact Checked

What is an Outpatient Clinic?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

The term outpatient clinic can refer to a number of different medical facilities. These can have highly specialized types of care, or they may offer general care, like urgent care facilities. Such clinics may be designated “outpatient” because they are attached to hospitals but do not serve those requiring overnight hospitalization. However, this type of clinic does not have to share facilities with a hospital, and some are not located on hospital campuses.

Some of the most common outpatient clinic types are urgent care centers, and these aim to provide a convenient and cheaper way to receive care for minor illnesses and injuries. As opposed to using an emergency room for things like a sudden ear infection, people might use a clinic that offers urgent care instead. These clinics are staffed by doctors and nurses, in addition to many other medical specialists, and can quickly take care of most minor problems. Urgent care clinics vary in hours, and some may be open until late evening, generally more hours than those offered by doctor’s offices. Many of these clinics are on hospital campuses, but may not be located in the main hospital building or buildings.

Ear infections may be treated at an outpatient clinic.
Ear infections may be treated at an outpatient clinic.

Instead of practicing general medicine, an outpatient clinic may be designed to practice some form of specialized medicine. There are lots of these clinics, which may or may not be located in hospitals. Some clinics exist to work with patients taking blood thinners like Coumadin® and may be called anti-coagulation clinics. Other examples include cardiology clinics, which might offer cardiology testing services like echocardiograms, electrocardiograms (EKGs), and stress testing.

Outpatient clinics may work with specific populations, such as soldiers returning home from war.
Outpatient clinics may work with specific populations, such as soldiers returning home from war.

Sometimes specialists see patients at a once a week or once a month clinic. On these designated days, care is given to those patients not requiring inpatient hospital services. For instance a pediatric neurologist who has a main hospital practice would use his clinic to follow up on patients he’s treating. Clinic hours and days would depend on degree of need for outpatient care and number of patients. Though these services might take place in a hospital, they still provide outpatient services.

Cardiology clinics may offer cardiology testing services such as electrocardiograms and stress testing.
Cardiology clinics may offer cardiology testing services such as electrocardiograms and stress testing.

Other types of outpatient clinics can work with certain populations. For instance there are clinics that work specifically with veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since this population may have problems unique to it, having a clinic devoted to these issues can be of great help. It provides a way to give consistency of treatment to all people participating and to collect information on the needs common to that group.

Some outpatient clinics are highly specialized.
Some outpatient clinics are highly specialized.

Outpatient clinic types exist in many variations. These include clinics addressing the needs of those requiring physical therapy, facilities that specialize in women’s health issues, and clinics devoted to caring for people with inability to pay for services. All share a common element; they are designed to give care to people who are not presently hospitalized.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent TheHealthBoard contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent TheHealthBoard contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments

moonTiger

I can't speak to the reputation of veterans outpatient clinics, but I know that when I've gone to an urgent care clinic, I often have to wait a long time to be seen because there's a lot of patients waiting and not enough staff to handle the patient load. I wonder if that's why veteran's outpatient clinics of today have such a bad reputation?

famnfriends

I totally agree, there are a lot of good things about outpatient clinics are good. I can't understand why the veterans outpatient clinics of today have such a bad reputation for not providing quality healthcare, my uncle's was great -- helpful staff and very efficient.

Can anybody tell me why their reputation is so bad?

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    • Ear infections may be treated at an outpatient clinic.
      By: WavebreakMediaMicro
      Ear infections may be treated at an outpatient clinic.
    • Outpatient clinics may work with specific populations, such as soldiers returning home from war.
      By: John Gomez
      Outpatient clinics may work with specific populations, such as soldiers returning home from war.
    • Cardiology clinics may offer cardiology testing services such as electrocardiograms and stress testing.
      By: nyul
      Cardiology clinics may offer cardiology testing services such as electrocardiograms and stress testing.
    • Some outpatient clinics are highly specialized.
      By: jovannig
      Some outpatient clinics are highly specialized.
    • Some outpatient clinics specialize in women's health issues.
      By: Sanjay Deva
      Some outpatient clinics specialize in women's health issues.