Inpatient and outpatient service are the two principal types of hospital care. Inpatient care is practically any form of care received by people after they are admitted to a hospital department, whether for the day, one night or a longer period. Outpatient care, on the other hand, is service provided in hospitals to patients who do not need to be admitted to the hospital, the most common examples being running tests for treatment for uterine fibroids and consultation with a doctor in the hospital.
Beside the time spent in the hospital, inpatient and outpatient care are different in many other ways, too. Most insurance policies cover only for the costs of inpatient care, which means that any test, consultation and procedure performed as an outpatient service needs to be paid for by the patient. There is one exception from under this rule, though, and that is treatment in an emergency department – the people who are eligible for Medicare do not pay anything for emergency treatment, even though these services are considered to be a form of outpatient care. If the person who visits the emergency department is admitted to the hospital as the result of the diagnosis set up at the ER, the rules of inpatient care apply from the moment that the patient is admitted to a specialized department.