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Ancillary services in the healthcare industry generally fall into three categories: custodial, diagnostic and therapeutic. Without the benefit of ancillary services, treating physicians would be bogged down in tests and treatments that easily can be performed outside of a hospital or doctor’s office and don’t even require the hands-on participation of an MD.
Services Within a Hospital
While in the hospital, patients rely on ancillary services for a host of treatments that include case management and social workers who manage the flow of treatment, ensure coverage and make outside referrals. Social workers and pastoral care providers talk with patients to ease their fears and provide religious services when requested. The dietitian in the kitchen who prepares menus based on dietary restrictions is considered an ancillary healthcare worker in an inpatient setting, as are physical therapists, speech therapists, and occupational therapists who may continue seeing patients once they are released.
Services Within the Doctor’s Office
In an outpatient clinic or doctor’s office, ancillary services primarily consist of diagnostic procedures. Radiology and pulmonary testing done within the office are considered ancillary as are lab tests performed onsite. Many physicians have moved those ancillary services into their offices to be able to provide immediate diagnoses and in turn begin appropriate treatments based on the results of the tests. Large practices may even employ therapeutic ancillary services within their facilities that could include physical therapists, nutritionists and counselors.
Outside Referral Services
Traditionally, ancillary services have been performed in separate healthcare facilities than the treating physician. Those services include independent laboratories that take blood samples and either do the testing in-house or send samples out to separate diagnostics labs. Counselors for weight loss or mental health issues typically hold sessions in separate facilities. Radiology offices may provide a range of X-ray services within a distinctly separate office and audiologists provide their own staff and office space. Custodial services such as nursing homes, assisted living facilities and hospice centers usually maintain separate facilities to serve patients.
In-House Vs. Outsourced
Pros and cons exist regarding the cost and efficiency of providing ancillary services in-house versus making referrals to separate ancillary providers. Doctors can get immediate test results and patients can get all their treatments in one stop. Visits may last longer, however, and patients are not given a choice in where they receive various tests and therapies. While clinics and doctor offices may need to expand their facilities and hire extra staff, they also can increase profits by offering additional services. Creative healthcare providers can even add ancillary services such as skin care and weight loss programs to increase profits and attract patients. At the same time, patients must be aware of insurance restrictions and what types of ancillary services are covered and where they must be provided to ensure full coverage.
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Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."
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