An important distinction in the U.S. healthcare system is the distinction between inpatient vs. outpatient care. Though both types treat patients, they differ in where, how, and to what extent patients are treated and how patients pay for treatment. 

Inpatient Care 

Inpatient care starts with admission to the hospital for medical treatment. Most patients enter inpatient care from a hospital’s Emergency Room (ER) or through a pre-booked surgery or treatment. In most cases, the treatment must be serious and require in-depth observation and monitoring.  

Medicare insurance Part A covers the cost of in-hospital treatment. Similarly, if patients have private insurance, their care will be covered.  

Once discharged from the hospital by the doctor, the patient becomes an outpatient.  

Outpatient Care  

Outpatient care involves any sort of care provided without admission into the hospital. Procedures within an outpatient clinic include consultations, rehabilitation, tests, etc. These are all performed outside the hospital setting—traditionally in clinics or other facilities.

Private insurance or Medicare Part B partially covers some of these treatments. However, outpatient treatments typically involve some out-of-pocket cost.  

In recent years, inpatient hospital care has become the most expensive form of care for hospital systems to front. Most procedures, once done at an inpatient facility, can now be done in an outpatient clinic. As a result, most hospitals now refer patients to an outpatient clinic out of affordability and convenience.  

The U.S. Healthcare System and AMO 

In the end, acknowledging the difference between inpatient and outpatient care is an important part of learning about the U.S. healthcare system. Healthcare no longer centers around the hospital. There are many other facilities and clinics that provide outpatient care as a more affordable and convenient option for patients. AMOpportunities offers clinical rotations and observerships in both inpatient and outpatient care settings. Both types of experiences introduce international medical graduates (IMGs) to working in American healthcare.  

Check out our rotations to start your AMO journey!