What Are Ancillary Services in Health Care?

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Doctors, dentists and nurses are the primary health care providers we ordinarily think of first. However, ancillary services providers far outnumber the primary providers. Without ancillary services doctors, dentists and nurses would not be able to function effectively.
 
Ancillary services fall into three broad categories: diagnostic, therapeutic and custodial. If your physician sends you for an x-ray of your injured leg, she is using a diagnostic ancillary service. If after repairing the bone in your leg, she sends you to a physical therapist for proper exercise routines, she is using a therapeutic ancillary service. Nursing homes providing custodial care are an ancillary service also.
 
Ancillary services are located mainly in three facilities: hospitals, medical offices and free-standing sites. The hospital pharmacy is a therapeutic ancillary service. If your physician checks the level of triglycerides in your blood in his office lab, he is using a diagnostic ancillary service. The third common place in which ancillary services are provided is a free-standing setting. A group of speech pathologists can operate an ancillary service practice in a medical office building. A pharmacy is the anchor service in a drug store.
 
States have regulations concerned with ancillary service providers and their equipment. They determine what medical direction, consultation and supervision is necessary. States usually require certification for allied health workers, such as therapists. Typically, while a physician must prescribe cardiac rehabilitation services, she need not be present while they are provided. But for diagnostic cardiac testing, a physician will ordinarily be present.
 

The following is a partial list of common ancillary services.

  • Audiology
  • Durable medical equipment
  • Kidney dialysis
  • Pharmacy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Imaging
  • Weight management
  • Home health care
  • Pulmonary testing
  • Nutrition education
  • Home infusion
  • Laboratory
  • Cardiac rehabilitation
  • Cardiac testing
  • Diabetes education
  • Assisted living facility
  • Hospice
  • Radiology
  • Skilled nursing facility
  • Fitness center

 

Ancillary services are designed to meet a specific medical need for a particular population. For example, a physical therapist may specialize in assisting post-stroke patients recover their physical abilities. A nutritionist can help a diabetic patient learn to eat foods that are suited to his disease. An ancillary service provider extends and facilitates the primary care provided by doctors, dentists and nurses.