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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.