The entrance to a surgery clinic in Greenwich, London.
Polyclinic in Písek, Czech Republic.
Children Polyclinic in Moscow-Novokosino.
Military Polyclinic in Legionowo, Poland.

A clinic (or outpatient clinic or ambulatory care clinic) is a healthcare facility that's primarily focused on the care of outpatients. Clinics can be privately operated or publicly managed and funded. They typically cover the primary healthcare needs of populations in local communities, in contrast to larger hospitals which offer specialised treatments and admit inpatients for overnight stays.

Most commonly, the word clinic in English refers to a general medical practice, run by one or more general practitioners, but it can additionally mean a specialist clinic. Some clinics retain the name “clinic" even while growing into institutions as large as major hospitals or fitting associated with a hospital or medical school.

Overview

Clinics are often associated with a general medical practise run by one or several general practitioners. Other types of clinics are run by the type of specialist associated with that type: physical therapy clinics by physiotherapists and psychology clinics by clinical psychologists, and so on for each health profession. (This can even hold true for certain services outside the medical field: for example, legal clinics are run by lawyers.)

Some clinics are operated in-house by employers, government organizations, or hospitals, and a few clinical services are outsourced to private corporations which specialise in providing health services. In China, for example, owners of such clinics don't have formal medical education. There were 659,596 village clinics in China in 2011.

Health care in India, China, Russia and Africa is provided to those countries' vast rural areas by mobile health clinics or roadside dispensaries, a few of which integrate traditional medicine. In India these traditional clinics provide ayurvedic medicine and unani herbal medical practice. In each of these countries, traditional medicine tends to be a hereditary practice.

Etymology

The word clinic derives from Ancient Greek κλίνεινklinein meaning to slope, lean or recline. Hence κλίνηklinē is a couch or bed and κλινικόςklinikos is a physician who visits his patients in their beds. In Latin, this became clīnicus.

An early use of the word clinic was "one who receives baptism on a sick bed".

Function

The function of clinics differs from country to country. For instance, a local general practise run by a single general practitioner provides primary health care and is usually run as a for-profit business by the owner, whereas a government-run specialist clinic might provide subsidised or specialised health care.

Some clinics function as a place for people with injuries or illnesses to come and be seen by a triage nurse or additional health worker. In these clinics, the injury or illness might not be serious enough to require a visit to an emergency room (ER), but the person can be transferred to one if needed.

Treatment at these clinics is often less expensive than it would be at a casualty department. Also, unlike an ER these clinics are often not open on a 24 x 7 x 365 basis. They at times have access to diagnostic equipment such as X-ray machines, especially if the clinic is part of a larger facility. Doctors at such clinics can often refer patients to specialists if the need arises.

Large outpatient clinics

Large outpatient clinics vary in size, but can be as large as hospitals.

Function

Typical large outpatient clinics house general medical practitioners (GPs) such as doctors and nurses to provide ambulatory care and a few acute care services but lack the major surgical and pre- and post-operative care facilities commonly associated with hospitals.

Besides GPs, if a clinic is a polyclinic, it can house outpatient departments of a few medical specialties, such as gynecology, dermatology, ophthalmology, otolaryngology, neurology, pulmonology, cardiology, and endocrinology. In a few university cities, polyclinics contain outpatient departments for the entire teaching hospital in one building.

Internationally

Large outpatient clinics are a common type of healthcare facility in a large number of countries, including France, Germany (long tradition), Switzerland, and most of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe (often using a mixed Soviet-German model), as well as in former Soviet republics such as Russia and Ukraine; and in a large number of countries across Asia and Africa.

Recent Russian governments have attempted to replace the polyclinic model introduced throughout Soviet times with a more western model. Notwithstanding this has failed.

India has additionally set up huge numbers of polyclinics for former defence personnel. The network envisages 426 polyclinics in 343 districts of the country which will benefit about 33 lakh (3.3 million) ex-servicemen residing in remote and far-flung areas.

Polyclinics are additionally the backbone of Cuba's primary care system and have been credited with a role in improving that nation's health indicators.

Types

Storefront clinic in Manhattan.

There are a large number of different types of clinics providing outpatient services. Such clinics might be public (government-funded) or private medical practices.

  • A CLSC are in Quebec; they're a type of free clinic funded by the provincial government; they provide service not covered by Canada's healthcare plan including social workers
  • In the United States, a free clinic provides free or low-cost healthcare for those without insurance.
  • A retail-based clinic is housed in supermarkets and similar retail outlets providing walk-in health care, which might be staffed by nurse practitioners.
  • A general out-patient clinic offers general diagnoses or treatments without an overnight stay.
  • A polyclinic provides a range of healthcare services (including diagnostics) without need of an overnight stay
  • A specialist clinic provides advanced diagnostic or treatment services for specific diseases or parts of the body. This type contrasts with general out-patient clinics.

Examples