In the last 15 years, a new form of healthcare has risen sharply in the United States. Aimed at providing lower cost treatment options for a wide range of health issues, ambulatory care centers are popping up everywhere. They are an appealing option for a lot of situations, but before you abandon your traditional healthcare options, take a moment to learn more about these services. As a newer, underdeveloped treatment route, there are risks associated with ambulatory care that have been virtually eliminated from hospital and primary physician services.
What is ambulatory care?
Ambulatory care refers to single instance outpatient care. Basically, it is a medical facility that aims to treat issues with a single visit. Therefore, the biggest thing to understand is that this is a form of care that never includes overnight stays or hospitalization. It is also not aimed to provide frequent follow up care, which distinguishes ambulatory care centers from primary care physicians. These major differences lead to the bulk of systematic issues and risks with this form of healthcare.
Culture of safety
Over the past 40 years, vast resources in the U.S. have been invested into improving healthcare through systematic safety procedures and approaches. It has minimized the risk of virtually every form of care in a hospital. You might have noticed the key word in that sentence: hospital. Almost all of the research and reform has been directed at inpatient care, which has left ambulatory services lagging. Facilities do not have standardized equipment or procedures, and ultimately this means any trip to an ambulatory care facility can have an unreasonably wide range of potential outcomes. Insufficient care is the common side effect.
Inconsistent care management
The lack of culture of safety leads to a number of problems, but by far the biggest drawback of ambulatory care is inconsistency. On average, trips to these facilities are months or even years apart, and patients rarely visit the same doctor consecutively making it almost impossible for physicians to diagnose and treat chronic issues. In fact, ambulatory care sees a five percent rate of missed or delayed diagnosis across the country. While this feels like a small number, it means that roughly one person in every waiting room will not receive appropriate treatment for their problems.
Ambulatory care is not inherently evil or ineffective, but its goals limit how it can approach chronic and severe illness. While it remains an affordable option for light-level trauma, consider more established medical outlets for the most serious problems, and do your best to maintain a good relationship with a primary physician.