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OPD - Outpatient Department

OPD - Outpatient Department

Over the years, hospitals have been crucial to humans as they help people lead healthy lives. Through their service, hospitals save people from various diseases, which even include life-threatening diseases. Different departments of hospitals efficiently contribute to the success of any hospital. The major departments in the hospital are Dietary department, Inpatient service (IP), Medical department, Nursing department, Operation theatre (OT), Outpatient department (OPD), Rehabilitation department, Radiology department, and Paramedical department. The outpatient department is the first intermediary between a patient and the hospital staff. A patient first comes to the OPD for inspection and then the doctors from the OPD refer him/her to the respective departments of treatment according to the patient needs.

What is an OPD?

OPD is the short form of the Outpatient Department. It is the section of any hospital where the patients that require medical attention are treated. People need to pay consultation charges, and the doctor will visit the patient to conduct the necessary check-up. The doctor examines the patient, conducts necessary tests, and prescribes medication and treatment on the basis of the health condition of the patient.

Hospitals have OPD wards for providing attention to the patients and conducting medical treatment.The minor surgeries and treatments can be easily conducted in the OPDs. It is not necessary to admit a patient to the hospital for surgeries and treatment. Moreover, modern OPDs have the necessary equipment and facilities to conduct surgeries, medical tests, and diagnoses.

OPD - Outpatient Department

Difference between Outpatient and Inpatient Department

Although both departments have different roles and functions, both are extremely important for any hospital. The outpatient department provides the initial diagnoses. Patient visits the OPD of hospitals for treatment. The patient is not required to be admitted to the hospital for treatment. Generally, OPD takes minor cases for treatment. However, the inpatient departments admit the patient for one or more days according to the severity of the illness and the time required for treatment. Inpatient departments admit patients with more severe medical conditions as compared to OPD patients.

Hence, the outpatient department provides a treatment that can be completed within a few hours, and there is no requirement for patient admission.

Services Provided by the OPD

OPDs provide all general services and facilities which are necessary for any hospital. OPDs act as the first step for consulting the doctor and getting the tests done to proceed with treatment. Through the services provided in OPD, the hospital works for the smooth functioning of the healthcare system. These services are classified as -

  • Prevention and wellness -
    OPDs provide guidance to the patients for overall wellness and prevention of health issues. Doctors guide patients to maintain a healthy weight, improve sleep, balance sugar levels, etc.
  • Diagnosis -
    OPD is the first place where the patient and doctor meet and discuss the patient's health condition. After discussing the issue, the doctor suggests the necessary tests for the patient. The lab tests and MRI scans are conducted in the OPD.
  • Treatment -
    Treatment and minor surgeries can be done in the outpatient department. Modern OPD has all the necessary equipment to treat a patient. Surgeries such as cuts, wounds, etc., can be easily handled in the modern OPD.

Points to consider while visiting an OPD

It is important to know some points before visiting any hospital's OPD. These points will save your time and will make the treatment more convenient to access.

  • OPD Timings
    The timing of OPD in any hospital depends on the hospital itself. It varies from place to place and for every hospital. However, India's most common OPD timings are 9 A.M. to 6 P.M. This is the best time to book your appointment and immediately get one.
  • OPD Slots
    Specific slots are also provided in some hospitals. Generally, it is according to the availability of the doctor. Some specialists visit only during the specific time slots. However, the common consulting doctor is always available for the patient.
  • Booking an appointment in the OPD
    Suppose, you want to consult a specialist then you have to book an appointment with them through call or online. However, you can even ask the receptionist to book an appointment according to its severity and health condition.
  • Searching for the appropriate specialist
    It is a difficult job to search for a specialist for your treatment. In such a case, consult a general doctor who will recommend a specialist if required.

Types of Outpatient Department

There are different types of OPD like ENT (ear, nose, and throat), paediatric, skin, and eyes. These types are based on the function and facility they offer. Several other OPDs are also there, which contribute to the easy working of the healthcare system. Such types are OPDs are -

  1. Primary Care Clinic -
    Primary care clinics are facilities where patients consult the physicians. These physicians conduct tests and direct the patient to specialists when the need arises. Examples of primary care physicians include nutritionists, family doctors, gynaecologists, etc. These are regular doctors that conduct the check-up.
  2. Community Clinic
    The community health clinic is for the people who cannot access healthcare. These allow people with low incomes, no health insurance, workers, or migrants.
  3. Urgent Care Centre
    The urgent care centre is a clinic that serves the purpose of an emergency ward. It is for those treatments which require urgent attention but are not life-threatening. The patients are treated for illness and injuries without the emergency rooms. Hence the urgent care centre reduces the workload of the emergency rooms by providing timely and convenient treatment to the patients.
  4. Specialized Outpatient Clinic
    Specialized Outpatient Clinic is for the patients suffering from a specific illness under the specialization like cardiology, nephrology, wound care, pain management, chemotherapy treatment, and radiation treatment at specific centres.
  5. Pharmacy
    Nowadays, a pharmacy functions much beyond what it used to do years ago. Today, the pharmacy provides preventive measures for health conditions, possible side effects and other information associated with the drug, and the readings such as heart rate and blood pressure. These facilities are provided rather than simply providing medicines to the patients.
  6. Emergency Department
    The emergency department is popularly known as emergency rooms, abbreviated as ER. The emergency department is in every hospital and provides service to the patients who require immediate treatment and attention. The staff of the ER department is highlyskilled and includes doctors, nurses, and radiologists who treat emergency illnesses or injuries. All these professionals identify the problem and immediately work on recovering the patient.

Importance of OPD in Healthcare Systems

  • An Outpatient Department is at the entrance of any hospital. It acts as the first place where the patients and doctors communicate.
  • It is a crucial link between the patients and the healthcare system and is hence inseparable.
  • It is vital in preventing diseases and ensures fast recovery of the patient.
  • It controls the number of patients in the inpatient ward by providing small surgeries and treatments.
  • It evaluates the patients, and only those who require a bed or special care are shifted to the inpatient ward. Thus, saving the number of occupied beds.
  • Generally, people that visit for the first time and have minor health are treated in OPD. Doctors conduct tests, provide consultancy, and give prescriptions to the patient in the OPD.

Process of Admission in the Outpatient Department

There is a certain process that is to be followed while treating the patients in the OPD. It includes the following:

  1. The patient is screened, and tests are conducted as an initial process.
  2. The patients are allotted appointments for consulting a doctor.
  3. A new patient must maintain a file that can be issued at reception.
  4. A patient is generally charged for consultation on the basis of whether they are a new patient or it is their follow-up.

Difference between OPD and Emergency

The emergency ward is completely different from the OPD in terms of the facility and its functioning. OPD is for treating and diagnosing any general disease or health condition, whereas emergency is for specific conditions like accidents. The location, treatment, fees, and functioning of both departments is completely different.

Difference between Day Care and Outpatient Department

Day Care Treatments -

Day Care treatment is a treatment that usually requires one day. Sometimes the treatment is even conducted in a few hours with advanced technological tools. It requires almost a day and is therefore known as Day Care treatment.

Outpatient Department -

Hospitals have OPD wards for providing attention to the patients and conducting medical treatment. It is not necessary to be admitted to the hospital for surgeries and treatment.

An outpatient department doesn't require a patient to be admitted for treatment. The time of hospitalization is the feature of OPD that differentiates it from the Day Care treatments where the patient is admitted for a day. The patient is discharged from the hospital if their health improves after a day or two. The difference between Day Care treatment and the outpatient department is only in terms of the duration for which the patient is hospitalized.

For example, a dental surgery after an accident is a Day Care treatment, whereas a root canal that can be done in a few hours is possible in the outpatient department.

People need to pay consultation charges, and the doctor will visit the patient to conduct the necessary check-up. However, the expenses of the outpatient department are much less as compared to the Day Care treatments. The charges of other treatment that continue for many days is greater than the Day Care treatment.

Benefits of OPD

Although OPD is a general ward, it has many benefits compared to the other hospital departments. Some of the benefits that increase the importance of OPDs are -

  1. Less Expensive -
    OPD helps saving money as the patient is not admitted and is not required to pay for the bed.
  2. Does not require admission -
    Patients that are treated in OPD do not require to be admitted unless the condition doesn't improve. Treatment without admitting saves patients from the stress of being admitted to the hospital.
  3. Well-Equipped -
    Nowadays, OPDs are well-equipped, and minor surgeries and treatment can be provided in the OPD. Modern OPDs have all the required equipment necessary for the initial diagnoses and investigation of the ailment.
  4. Good Service -
    The quality of service provided at the OPD is good as the staff is well-trained. Moreover, the patient can conduct a diagnosis and get consultancy from a doctor at the same place.
  5. Easy Access -
    People can easily access medical facilities and practitioners through the outpatient department. Moreover, the outpatient department fees are very much affordable.
  6. Control communicable diseases -
    The outpatient department plays a prominent role in controlling infectious diseases. It is done through surveillance and tracing the common diseasing in people with the help of data.
  7. Research -
    Data from the outpatient department is used for the research purpose. It is crucial for the developments in the field of medicines and vaccines that may help in the reduction of common diseases.
  8. Practise field -
    OPD acts as the practice ground for the new doctors to learn medicine. It even supports paramedical and nursing staff.

Features of OPD

The main features of OPD which significantly contribute to the healthcare system operation are listed below:

  • It acts as the first point where the patient and the healthcare system interact with each other.
  • It is the most important step in health promotion and vital in the prevention of diseases.
  • The screening is done to find the illness and see whether the patient needs admission to the hospital.
  • All patients can easily access the medical practitioners and get the treatment done.
  • It facilitates vaccination, common illness, or minor surgeries.


Good service and timely treatment of the patient are necessary for the faster recovery of the patient. The outpatient department is a crucial first step for any medical treatment. It helps the patient recover or improves from a certain health condition. OPD is the section that also provides additional services like diagnosis, lab tests, precautionary advice, etc. It controls the spread of infectious diseases and supports functions such as vaccination, etc. Despite many beneficial functions of the outpatient department, the facilities and the quality of treatment varies from hospital to hospital. Hence before going to any OPD, make sure that you check the reviews for the hospital.

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