When a patient enters a hospital, they look to their primary doctor or nurse for all of the services they will need during their recovery. What happens, however, if a hospital lacks a critical auxiliary function, such as a blood analysis lab or a pharmacy?
This is where ancillary care comes in. Ancillary service providers operate alongside healthcare institutes to provide holistic healthcare services to patients. These services may be diagnostic, therapeutic, or custodial to take care of all patient needs and assist doctors in diagnosing and treating patients timely, efficiently, and effectively.
What Are Ancillary Services?
In medical terms, ancillary services are those medical procedures or services that are not provided by a physician or nurse and are not financially covered by room-and-board costs. These services are usually not available at acute care hospitals or smaller clinics. An expert may provide this service in-clinic, in the case of medical offices and free-standing ancillary service centers. Otherwise, in hospitals, doctors can simply refer the patient to a department within the hospital; a facility that specializes in the procedure. With the help of ancillary care services, the primary doctor or nurse can provide the most comprehensive care to the patient.
Who Provides Ancillary Care?
There are three places where ancillary care services are employed:
Most renowned hospitals owe their prosperity and success to the wide range of ancillary services at their disposal. Patients receive the fulfillment of all their healthcare needs at one institute only. Hospitals usually provide ancillary diagnostic and therapeutic treatments.
Examples of these services include, but are not limited to:
- Ambulance service
- Dialysis service
- Radiology, diagnostic imaging service
- Ventilator service
- Pharmaceutical service
2. Medical Offices
Medical offices are smaller-scale clinics where patients may go for highly specialized concerns. psychiatry clinic. For example, an orthopedic clinic would have diagnostic imaging (X-ray) services that fall under ancillary healthcare services.
3. Freestanding Service Providers
Free-standing service providers are not affiliated with a hospital or clinic. They operate independently. The most recent examples of such services are the COVID-19 testing centers that were set up all over the globe. These diagnostic facilities were set up for the public, regardless of whether a doctor had referred the individual to get tested or not.
Another example is blood testing laboratories. These free-standing centers employ and train their medical staff to specialize in their relevant field of ancillary healthcare to provide services similar to those in hospitals.
Types of Ancillary Care
There are three broad categories that ancillary services fall under:
1. Diagnostic Ancillary Care
As the name indicates, a diagnostic ancillary service will help the doctor diagnose the patient with an ailment. A patient presenting with a set of symptoms may require blood tests, diagnostic imaging, or urine tests. Experts in each of these departments will complete each procedure and record the results.
The doctor is now able to analyze the given results to diagnose the patient and proceed with the most viable treatment plan.
These services are usually provided in large-scale healthcare facilities or hospitals for timely assistance to the primary physicians in the hospital. They are also provided at ambulatory service centers and third-party diagnostic testing facilities.
Diagnostic ancillary services are centered around testing bodily samples or imaging services to simply present the necessary information to the physician. Thus, these are short-term service options.
Examples of diagnostic ancillary services are:
- Cardiac monitoring
- Clinical lab services – including urology and blood testing,
- Sleep laboratory services
- X rays
- Imaging studies
In smaller or acute-care hospitals where all these services may not be available, physicians may be able to run some tests in-clinic. For example, a physician may choose to run a blood triglyceride test in his lab.
However, most physicians prefer to refer the patient to a free-standing service that specializes in the needful department with trained professionals to complete the diagnostic procedure. This ensures faster results with a lower margin of error, allowing the physician to diagnose the patient accurately.
2. Therapeutic Ancillary Services
Therapeutic services are more long-term ancillary healthcare options that cater to a patient even after they are no longer under the care of a primary physician. In other cases, patients with chronic illnesses or lifelong conditions may also benefit from such services.
Therapeutic services are centered around conditioning. Examples of these include:
- Nutrition and food service
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Language and speech therapy
Instead of hospitals, it is more common for these services to be provided by medical centers or free-standing facilities. These services are administered by trained health professionals and typically do not require the supervision of a physician. A patient may be referred to therapeutic ancillary care after primary treatment is provided during the hospital stay. Therapeutic services encompass secondary treatment and ensure complete recovery.
3. Custodial Ancillary Services
Custodial services are the most long-term of all types of ancillary healthcare services. Such care consists of non-medical services that help the patient with everyday activities such as eating and bathing. Most patients under custodial ancillary care are of the geriatric population or may present with certain physical on mentally debilitating conditions that hamper their full range of activity.
Examples of custodial services are:
- Hospice care
- Nursing facilities
- Home healthcare
Most of the services falling under this category of ancillary care are provided by free-standing centers, such as independently operating drug rehabilitation centers or old homes.
A physician at a hospital or medical center may refer the patient to a custodial service center if the treatment requires. Hospitals seldom provide such services unless they have employed a custodial ancillary service company for holistic patient care.
Why Are Ancillary Services Important?
A large number of healthcare providers are opting to work with ancillary care providers instead of administering in-house services. This is because hospitals and medical offices save themselves from extensive financial burdens by choosing to work with third-party providers. Studies show how patient use of these laboratory services saw a 23% reduction in the hospital’s total cost of care.
- Have highly trained professional staff to run diagnostic and therapeutic services,
- Have the tools and machinery for carrying out diagnostic procedures
- Have the staff to record and maintain patient data
- Maintain the quality of their services internally
Thus, it is cost-effective for hospitals to focus on physician care primarily while the ancillary company focuses on all other services. This distribution of responsibility also significantly improves the quality and increases the range of care a hospital can provide.
Ancillary healthcare has become a keystone of the American healthcare system due to the vast range of services a patient can avail of under one roof at a lower overall cost. It is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the healthcare industry, representing nearly 30% of all medical spending today.
Preventative wellness also falls under diagnostic ancillary services. You may be facing unique health vulnerabilities due to your lifestyle or genetic disposition.
At HG Analytics, we help doctors and clinics leverage data analytics to provide personalized and proactive healthcare to their patients. Our solutions enable you to identify risk factors and optimize treatments. If you want to improve your clinical performance and patient satisfaction, partner with us today!