What is an inpatient and an outpatient?

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‘Inpatient’ and ‘outpatient’ are terms used in the medical industry to classify patients or those that seek medical services from hospitals, clinics, and other medical facilities. There are also certain medical guidelines and illnesses that dictate whether a patient should be classified as either an inpatient or an outpatient.  Generally speaking, though, ‘inpatient’ refers to instances wherein the patient involved stays in the hospital or medical facility overnight to get medical services or treatment.  ‘Outpatient,’ meanwhile, involves getting medical services at the same facility, but the patient does not stay overnight.

In most cases, the illness or sickness is what dictates whether a patient should be designated as an inpatient or should be considered as an outpatient only.  In the case of people who go into hospitals to treat small wounds and bruises, for example, doctors may classify them as outpatients, and they will be given medical treatment based on their classification.  In this specific example, the patient with wounds and bruises may be given medication at the time of his/her hospital visit and will then be advised to go home and rest.  On the other hand, some patients that are suffering from more serious medical conditions may need to be admitted to the hospital and stay overnight.  In this latter case, the patients are then classified as inpatients and will be given treatment and care inside the hospital or medical facility for as long as it is needed and as per the advice of their doctors.

In terms of medical facilities, those that offer both inpatient and outpatient care services are usually referred to as hospitals.  Some facilities, though, offer only outpatient care services, and these include small clinics for checkups and consultations with doctors and diagnostic and laboratory centers where people can undergo medical tests on an outpatient basis.  Overall, either the illness itself or the attending physicians will decide whether a certain case should be classified as ‘inpatient’ or ‘outpatient.’

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