A Brief Description of Inpatient and Outpatient Settings
Inpatient and outpatient services refer to analytical and therapeutic processes carried out on patients undergoing various forms and levels of treatment. Inpatient implies that the individual is admitted to the hospital where the diagnostic and therapeutic procedures are conducted to ensure the delivery of intensive care. On the other hand, outpatient means that the individual does not require admission to the hospital for the diagnostic and therapeutic procedures to be conducted. Acute inpatient unit or acute care is an inpatient setting where a patient is provided with active and short-term treatment services for severe injury, illness, and/or emergency (Angood & Shannon, 2014). Acute care services can also be provided after surgery during the recovery phase. As opposed to long-term care, an acute care unit’s objective is to discharge the patient as soon as they are healthy.
The services provided in an acute setting vary depending on the nature of treatment offered to the inpatient. For instance, the acute care setting provides cardiology, emergency, intensive care, and neonatal intensive care services. Such services specialize in the care of premature and ill newborn infants. There is a need to assign key personnel to the patient as he or she receives treatment for acute conditions. Health care professionals who provide curative, preventive, and rehabilitative health care services are deemed the best for an acute care setting (Maeda et al., 2014).
According to Kutscher and Evans (2013), healthcare professionals vary from skilled nurses to medical specialists. Health care professionals involved in surgical specialties are imperative in an acute care inpatient setting. It should be noted that this arrangement requires the patient to stay in a specific department in hospitals. For instance, the patients may be required to stay in the emergency department where appropriate medicines and services can be provided promptly. The acute care unit supports the surgical department by providing after-surgery rehabilitation services. Additionally, emergency patients can go via the acute care unit to the surgery department in cases where the patients require immediate surgical procedures. When the conditions of patients in an acute unit deteriorate, they are transferred to dependable units. This plan is meant for stabilization purposes and further treatment of the patient (Angood & Shannon, 2014).
Trends Affecting Inpatient Settings
White (2013) reveals that patient care is one of the trends that have significant effects on inpatient. The author points out that a demographic change is a trend believed to have a significant impact on the health care system particularly inpatient acute care. Demographic changes involve changes in population size, race, and age. Health care units for inpatients have to respond appropriately to their medical needs and expectations. Therefore, if the demographic changes involve different population ages, the health care system has to adjust accordingly. Kutscher and Evans (2013) reveal that people of different ages are offered unique forms and levels of treatment in an acute care inpatient setting. According to Maeda et al. (2014), the kind of treatment offered to a patient depends on their response to medication. For instance, elderly people are known to respond slowly to treatment as compared to younger people. Thus, if the population has a large number of aging people, the acute care inpatient setting has to review their services to meet their homeopathic needs.
A demographic change related to the size and age of the population has a significant impact on the cost and prices of acute care inpatient settings. It is worth noting that an increase in population, results in a corresponding rise in health-related issues such as obesity, hypertension, and the spread of other diseases (White, 2013). High populations project a strong economy and, therefore, the health care system tends to increase the prices of the services they offer. In areas with lower population, health facilities often reduce their prices to meet their medical needs. Moreover, highly populated areas tend to have medical inflation that results in an increment in the prices for health services. Furthermore, health facilities in such areas are characterized by increased utilization of hospital equipment (White & Yee, 2013).
Cost of Care
This situation creates a need to increase the cost of offering health services (White & Yee, 2013). Besides, prices for services in the acute care unit also increase to cater to the demographic cost pressure. On the other hand, demographic age changes have a significant impact on the cost of health care services. Older people and infants are more vulnerable to health issues as compares to middle-aged individuals. White (2013) considers teenagers, the youth, and people slightly above 40 years as middle-aged individuals. Areas dominated by the elderly people and infants provide a high-cost pressure to the health care systems. This state of affairs results in an increased demand for medical resources, a situation that creates a need to increase the fee for health services. Thus, the acute care inpatient setting is affected by demographic changes. Acute care services offered tend to vary with the age of the patient. Moreover, the population size determines the utilization rate of acute care services; hence, affecting the overall cost of offering treatment (Maeda et al., 2014).
Prices have a significant impact on the acute care inpatient setting. Scholars have concluded that the growth of many health care facilities is price-driven. Thus a change in the cost of services directly influences the flow of patients, especially in cases that require intensive care. For instance, when the prices offered by the health facilities are reduced, the acute care services tend to reduce in quality (White & Yee, 2013). Gu et al. (2014) explain that as a profit maximization strategy, the hospitals tend to reduce the number of inpatients to reduce the costs incurred. This move results in low-quality services offered especially for emergencies in the acute care services. Fewer quality services can be seen through the use of low-quality medicines and equipment. On the other hand, price increases for the services offered in an acute care unit will result in high-quality services being offered. The health care facilities increase the number of beds and increase the capacity. This undertaking has a direct impact on the flow of inpatients; hence, it affects the overall supply and supply and demand for medical services. Financially constrained patients are at times scared away by price increments that are not favorable to their pockets. Nevertheless, scholars have proved that hospitals offering high prices for quality services experience exponential growth in the health industry. This move has a positive impact on the supply and demand for health services among the inpatients (Maeda et al., 2014).
Capitalizing On Demographic Changes
As a health practitioner, it is necessary to address the trends affecting the provision of health services. It should be noted that health services incorporate the acute care inpatient system. From this fact, it is true to conclude that demographic changes affect the acute care inpatient setting. Angood and Shannon (2014) suggest that steps should be undertaken to capitalize on these trends. For instance, planning and resourcing in the health care system should be conducted appropriately based on the estimated demographic cost pressure. The world is experiencing rapid population growth. The population of elderly people is also increasing. This situation implies an increased cost of taking care of them. According to White (2013), as a practitioner in the acute care inpatient setting, it is wise to include this cost as an upfront idea for planning and resources medical assets meant for inpatient care in the subsequent years. Gu et al. (2014) explain that the costs needed by the acute care inpatient setting to cater for the growing population should be incorporated into the health expenditure and budget. This move will be effective in reducing demographic cost pressure. Moreover, it will control medical inflation in the acute care inpatient setting.
In conclusion, demographic changes affect the acute care inpatient setting by imposing demographic cost pressure. To address this issue and improve performance, as a health practitioner, it is advisable to plan on the provision of services to the growing population. Gu et al. (2014) further suggest that resourcing is also a powerful procedure mitigating the negative impacts of demographic cost pressure. Planning and resourcing involve procedures of budgeting as a means to control expenditures and costs incurred by the health care system. This move will result in the growth of the health system and its departments such as acute care. It will result in improving bottom-line performance.
Angood, P., & Shannon, D. (2014). Unique benefits of physician leadership: An American perspective. Leadership in Health Services, 27(4), 272-282.
Gu, Q., Koenig, L., Faerberg, J., Steinberg, C., Vaz, C., & Wheatley, M. (2014). The medicare hospital readmissions reduction program: Potential unintended consequences for hospitals serving vulnerable populations. Health Services Research, 49(3), 818-837.
Kutscher, B., & Evans, M. (2013). Shift to outpatient care, pressure from payers contribute to drop in hospital patients. Web.
Maeda, J., Henke, R., Marder, W., Karaca, Z., Friedman, B., & Wong, H. (2014). Association between the unemployment rate and inpatient cost per discharge by payer in the United States, 2005–2010. BMC Health Services Research, 14(1), 378.
White, C. (2013). Contrary to cost-shift theory, lower medicare hospital payment rates for inpatient care lead to lower private payment rates. Health Affairs, 32(5), 935-943.
White, C., & Yee, T. (2013). When medicare cuts hospital prices, seniors use less inpatient care. Health Affairs, 32(10), 1789-1795.