What Are Ancillary Services in Healthcare?

Did you know that ancillary services are currently one of the fastest-growing sectors of healthcare today? You may not have heard of ancillary services or know what role they play in healthcare. However, ancillary services are crucial in helping the healthcare system run smoothly.

Have you been to your doctor and gotten blood drawn? If so, you probably had a phlebotomist draw your blood. A phlebotomist is an example of ancillary services.

This is just one example of many times the healthcare system uses ancillary services.  

Ancillary services help lighten the workload of doctors and nurses by filling in gaps in the healthcare system. Without these specialized services, a nursing shortage would have a great impact on patient care.

Ancillary services video explanation:

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, to avoid a greater nursing shortage, there will need to be 11 million additional nurses.

Luckily, ancillary services can help fill in the gaps where nurses may otherwise be needed. This can help with the shortage of nurses to ensure that patients are still receiving the care that they need.

Keep reading on to learn more about what is ancillary services, different examples of ancillary care, and the benefits.

What Are Ancillary Services?

Ancillary care makes up about 30% of medical spending today. Hospitals, many doctors’ offices, and clinics rely on ancillary care teams. They utilize ancillary services to help patients receive efficient and specialized care.

Clinics and doctors’ offices usually have ancillary care services that complement the health or medical care that a patient may require inside the office. Ancillary services prevent physicians and patients from being left with a large gap in services and care. Simply, doctors and nurses alone cannot meet all of the needs of patients by themselves.

For example, a primary care physician may offer laboratory services so a patient can have their blood drawn in the office. Or, a walk-in clinic may provide radiology services so that patients can get an x-ray done in the clinic. 

Doctors and nurses have many patients to see and numerous other tasks that are required of them. They can not spend all of their time with one patient and provide every specialized care needed by each patient.

Using ancillary care services allows the patient to receive specialized care without having as much delay. Ancillary care is broken down into three categories either: diagnostic, therapeutic, and custodial. 

Ancillary Diagnostic Services 

Ancillary diagnostic services help perform a variety of tests and operating equipment. These tests and equipment are necessary so a doctor can diagnose a patient. 

Ancillary diagnostic services provide services such as:

  • Laboratory testing
  • Radiology and imaging
  • Genetic testing
  • Cardiac monitoring
  • Sleep diagnostics.

Many of these services require the healthcare professional to be trained in specific equipment and skills.

Ancillary Therapeutic Services

Therapeutic services help so patients can perform daily tasks and activities. They also help in making some of these tasks less painful if a patient is experiencing daily pain. 

Therapeutic services provide services such as:

  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Massage therapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Respiratory therapy 
  • Chiropractics
  • Dialysis
  • Infusion services
  • Pain management

Therapeutic services offer a wide range of services. Which are especially beneficial in rehabilitation care.  

Ancillary Custodial Services

In custodial services, their services may have a wide range of services that they help with. In some cases, custodial services are even products and equipment that can help a person.

For example, personal emergency push devices allow for a patient to push a button and call for help. These are commonly seen with older adults who are at risk of falling and not being able to get up. 

These push to emergency devices are considered to be custodial ancillary services. 

Custodial ancillary services are services or facilities that someone may when they are recovering. Whether from an illness, need rehabilitation, a sufferer from a chronic disease, or are disabled. 

Custodial services provide services such as:

  • Hospice care
  • Inpatient rehab
  • Long-term acute care
  • Skilled nursing facilities
  • Surgery centers
  • Lithotripsy
  • Urgent care
  • Walk-in clinics

Custodial services focus on care outside of a hospital setting. 

Ancillary Staff

At the core of ancillary services are the staff who provide these services. Just as there are many different types of ancillary services, there are many different types of ancillary staff.

Many times that are several different types of ancillary staff in a single type of ancillary service. While much attention is often given to the role of nurses and doctors, ancillary staff are an essential part of any healthcare team and make the role of the direct care providers possible.

There are three main areas that ancillary staff typically work in. These include:

Let’s review each one in further detail.

Custodial Staff

Custodial ancillary staff are responsible for maintaining the cleanliness of the care environment. Depending on how the role of custodial staff is defined, this role may also include those who clean and maintain medical equipment. 

Ancillary staff in a custodial role may have differing levels of education and training, with some roles including advanced training. Working in a healthcare setting, even environmental services staff will need more education and training than they would working in other settings.

The increased risk of encountering and having to resolve biological hazards creates a level of complexity working in a healthcare setting.

Additionally, medical equipment and sterile fields like those encountered in operating rooms require advanced knowledge to work around.

Examples of custodial ancillary staff include:

  • Janitorial staff
  • Building and ground maintenance staff
  • Landscaping staff
  • Sterile processing technicians
  • Bio-medical equipment technicians

Some of these roles require diplomas or degrees while others can be obtained solely through on-the-job training.

Diagnostic Staff

While it is ultimately a provider, like a doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician that will make a diagnosis for each patient, these providers depend on a wide variety of diagnostic tests. These tests require professionals to conduct the test correctly. While the provider will interpret the test, how the test is taken has a large impact on the data that the provider gets.

The range of the different types of diagnostic staff varies significantly. Phlebotomists, staff who draw blood for laboratory testing, only need a short certification course. Conversely, some roles, such as certain positions in radiology, may require a master’s-level education.

Examples of diagnostic ancillary staff include:

  • Phlebotomist
  • Clinical laboratory technician
  • Radiology technologist
  • Ultrasonographer
  • MRI technician
  • Nuclear medicine technologist
  • EKG technician

Many diagnostic ancillary staff roles require a degree of some type, as the technical requirements of these jobs are beyond what can be taught during on-the-job training.

Therapeutic Staff

Therapeutic ancillary staff play an important role in healthcare, providing very specialized therapeutic treatments. Therapeutic ancillary staff are trained healthcare professionals who normally provide care in one specific area of healthcare. These areas require specialized training, but are not so complex that a doctor is needed to provide this care.

The use of therapeutic ancillary staff enables physicians to ensure that specialized care is provided, but also provides the physicians with time to focus on tasks that only they can provide.

Examples of therapeutic ancillary staff include:

  • Respiratory therapist
  • Occupational therapist
  • Physical therapist
  • Surgical technician
  • Nutritionist
  • Lactation consultant
  • Patient care assistant
  • Pharmacist

Because providing care directly to a patient is complex and has the potential to cause harm if the care is not performed correctly, these roles require more training than most other types of ancillary staff.

Often, a degree is necessary, with some of these fields requiring a doctoral degree. Additionally, many staff in these areas must acquire certifications from regulatory bodies to practice.

Ancillary Services Examples 

There are many types of ancillary services. These professions can be found in a wide range of healthcare settings as well. Some of these jobs work in clinics, hospitals, or home care settings. 

There are many more examples of ancillary services available. Each has its own role in providing specialty care to patients.

Physical Therapy 

Physical therapists work in a variety of healthcare settings and play an important role in improving patient care. They work either in hospitals, nursing homes, or rehabilitation centers. 

They are primarily responsible for helping injured, or ill patients regain or improve their movement and help manage pain. 

Occupational Therapy 

Occupational therapists work with ill and disabled patients. Occupational therapists help patients to develop, recover, improve, and maintain skills they need to help them with their daily life. 

Respiratory Therapy 

Respiratory therapists are responsible for helping patients who are experiencing troubled breathing. Respiratory therapists work with a wide age range of patients, such as premature infants with underdeveloped lungs.

Additionally, Respiratory therapists treat adults with severe lung diseases such as asthma.

Patient Care Assistant 

Patient care assistants, or PCAs, help to take care of patients and help them perform daily living activities. PCAs work in a wide range of healthcare settings, from hospitals and clinics to in-home healthcare. 

Massage Therapy

Massage therapists help patients by touching and manipulating the patient’s muscles and tissues. By doing this, massage therapists can help relieve pain, treat certain injuries, improve circulation, reduce stress, and help in the overall wellness of a patient. 

Radiology Technicians 

Radiology technicians perform diagnostic imaging procedures. Radiology technicians are responsible for knowing how to operate and position patients to perform certain diagnostic images that a physician may order. 

Radiology technicians use x-rays, computer tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imagining (MRI) scanners.

Pharmacists 

Pharmacists play a critical part in healthcare and are a part of ancillary care. Pharmacists are responsible for preparing and dispensing prescription medications to patients. Pharmacists help to ensure that the patient is getting the right medication and the right dose. 

Additionally, they prevent harmful drug interactions and educate patients and other healthcare workers on medication safety and appropriate medications. 

Nutritionists 

Nutritionists work with many patients in hospital settings and in clinics. Nutritionists help to assess patient’s nutritional health. They educate patients on healthy eating habits.

In addition, they will work with patients to develop nutrition plans. Which are vital in keeping patients healthy with certain health conditions.

For example, many patients with cardiac conditions need to have a low sodium diet. Nutritionists can educate a patient on how to follow this type of diet.

The Benefits of Ancillary Care 

Ancillary care plays a vital role in making the healthcare system function. Ancillary services help to reduce healthcare systems costs which benefits both the patient and the healthcare facility. 

Not only does utilizing ancillary services help healthcare facilities financially, ancillary services also allow for better and safer staffing levels. Patients are also able to receive specialized care that they may need based on their health conditions. 

Cost-Effective 

Possibly the most beneficial aspect of utilizing ancillary services is that it is more cost-effective. Healthcare costs continue to rise throughout the county, and hospital systems are trying to find ways to cut costs where it is possible. 

It is important for healthcare systems to save money when possible. It is equally important that patient care is not compromised.

Ancillary services are the answer to safely save the healthcare system money.

What if doctors were the only trained healthcare professionals that could operate a CT or MRI machine? The healthcare system would have to hire and pay these doctors to operate this equipment.

However, thanks to radiology technicians, the hospital can save money. Since radiology technicians require less schooling than a doctor the hospital system can pay them less.

By paying radiology technicians less, they can hire more of them as well. All of this benefits the operation of the healthcare system and the patient. 

Improved Staffing Levels 

With the staffing shortages across the county, the medical field is no different. The rising number of older adults and a shortage of physicians to care for these patients has lead to hospital administrations coming up with alternative solutions. 

Hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and more are all struggling with hiring and maintaining staff. One way that healthcare administrations have found to improve staffing levels is to utilize ancillary services more. 

Ancillary services allow for healthcare facilities to streamline their services. Doctors and nurses can focus on tasks they need to, and ancillary staff has their own services that they can focus on. 

For example, a nurse in the hospital that is working on a medical-surgical unity may have several patients. Each that needs a variety of things from medication passes to vital signs assessed to monitored.

Dialysis is a complex procedure and requires a lot of attention to run the complex equipment needed. If one of the nurse’s patients needed dialysis, they would need the nurse’s complete attention.

Without ancillary staff to come in and run the dialysis machine and care for that patient, the nurse would have to split her attention. This would lead to an unsafe medical situation for all of the nurse’s patients.

With the help of dialysis units, the nurse can transfer care to a dialysis nurse or a dialysis care team, and the nurse can focus on the other patients. This also benefits the patient receiving dialysis since they are getting focused and the specialty care they need.

Specialized Care 

The healthcare system is a business, and therefore it relies on its customers or patients just as any business would. Healthcare systems must create a good relationship with their patients, and the best way to do this is to ensure that patient’s come first. 

Ancillary services patient’s come first because it allows for specially trained staff to care for patients when necessary. For example, if a patient with asthma comes in having an asthma attack, a Respiratory Therapist can be there to assess and evaluate the patient.

A Respiratory Therapists has specialized training on medications and equipment that can help patients with respiratory distress. This ensures that patients are getting high-quality care and are being put first.

Highly Educated 

Each type of ancillary service requires a different level of education. For example, a PCA does not require any formal education in most cases. However, to become a Pharmacist, you must complete formal Pharmacy schooling. Pharmacy schooling can take between 4 to 6 years. 

Pharmacy schooling focuses on medications and their effects on the body. Could you imagine if every doctor and/or nurse had to have 4 to 6 years of specialized schooling on medications?

Yes, both careers require a lot of knowledge of medications. However, Pharmacists are able to focus on one area which allows for them to be highly educated on this subject matter. 

Similar to Pharmacists, Radiology Technicians require specialized education that takes about 4 years. This allows Radiology Technicians to know how to operate a variety of equipment.  

Ancillary Services: Helping the Healthcare System Run Smoothly 

Ancillary staff plays a critical role in the healthcare system. Ancillary services allow for healthcare facilities to save money without taking away from the quality of care. 

So whether you are looking into a career in the medical field, or you are a hospital administrator. It is important that you look into how ancillary staff can help the healthcare system. 

In fact, in many cases, it allows for specialized care that the patient needs. This allows for a better quality of patient care. Ancillary services also help improve hospital and healthcare facility staffing. 

For more information on ancillary services, schedule a consultation through Amazing Healthcare Consultants.  Contact us at Amazing Healthcare Consults today for more information. 

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