The purpose of the general outpatient care service is to provide medical care and diagnostics by a specialist. It also provides service occasionally or regularly for patients with chronic diseases whose condition does not require hospitalization.
Outpatient care is provided upon a referral issued by the patients’ GP (or their regular treating physician) or upon the patients’ request.
How does the outpatient care system work?
Outpatient services have to be ensured close to the patients’ place of residency or a reasonable distance from that, accessible by public transportation. Besides general care, special outpatient care facilities are also available which offer medical services for patients with rare or specific diseases that require special expertise or cooperation of doctors from different fields of medicine or require special medical tools and equipment.
Outpatient care is accessible during regular working hours, there is no on-call service.
The outpatient care’s scope of activities
Outpatient care facilities work independently or in cooperation with other institutions, divided into districts dependent upon the population and the prevalence of certain diseases at the given area.
Their scope of activities includes the followings:
- preventive measures (e.g. organized screening and vaccination programs) and diagnostic procedures (e.g. imaging techniques);
- medical treatment and regular follow up by specialists;
- initialization of home-nursing care provided at the patient’s place of residency,
- organization and implementation of rehabilitation;
- specialists’ opinion required for the GP services;
- medical consultations for cases that require expertise of different specialties;
- referring the patient to another outpatient facility if the patients’ condition require special diagnostic or therapeutic background;
- occasional interventions or medical courses after which a particular observational period is necessary (e.g. chemotherapy);
- if necessary, referring the patient to an inpatient facility.
The criteria of outpatient departments are legally set out by the 60/2003 ESzCsM directive. According to this, the following facilities belong to the outpatient care:
- outpatient facility and specialty facility: medical care provider facility that covers one or more medical fields, and of which diagnostic background is provided by the cooperation of other medical providers (e.g. lab diagnostics);
- outpatient institution: a medical institution that covers at least four different fields of medicine and all of their services and works with their own laboratories and imaging facilities;
- outpatient centers:patients with chronic diseases (e.g. pulmonary outpatient centers) or infectious diseases (dermatology and venereology outpatient centers);
- specialty outpatient department: a medical institution that provides both in- and outpatient services (which meets legally determined criteria regarding their human resources and medical equipment). The outpatient services are provided for patients with certain types of diseases (e.g. diabetes outpatient department for diabetic people or Cardiology Clinic for patients with cardiac diseases);
- mobile medical service: outpatient services provided at a designated vehicle at different locations. Their services comply with the services ensured at regular outpatient departments (e.g. Mobile Specialist Service);
- center and station: medical units that offer special diagnostic procedures or special medical services (e.g.. screening or sampling stations);
- laboratory: providing a wide range of lab diagnostic procedures;
- diagnostic center: they provide diagnostic procedures for the diagnosis of certain diseases (e.g.. sleep center, epilepsy center);
- home-nursing care: nursing care provided at the patient’s place of residency that substitutes inpatient nursing care;
- hospice-service: home-nursing care for patients with terminal disease (palliative care and assistance).
Beyond the abovementioned services, the followings represent other forms of outpatient services that can supplement hospital care: same day surgery, daytime hospital and medical courses.
Enlistment of outpatient services
General outpatient services are accessible for social security covered patients with their social security card, with a referral or in certain, legally set out cases without a referral (see below). It is notable that the institutions do not have to provide medical service for patients arriving without a referral from an area that is outside of the territorial obligation for medical care provision district. Medical services can only be availed at the medical provider facility listed on the referral (issued by a doctor).
The doctor can issue the referral electronically within the National eHealth Infrastructure (EESZT, Elektronikus Egészségügyi Szolgáltatási Tér) or in paper format upon the patient’s request. The medical care provider (in this case, the outpatient facility) can check the referral within the EESZT and edit the patient’s medical record according to the provided medical services.
In case of medical follow-ups, the referrals are valid until the date determined by the referral-issuing doctor, but at least for 90 days, in other cases, referrals are valid until up to 90 days from issuance.
Medical services available without referral
Certain (legally set out) outpatient services are available without a referral, and doctor-indicated follow-ups are also accessible without a referral (about these follow-ups the doctor always informs the patient in written form).
Outpatient medical services available without referral:
- gynecology and child gynecology;
- psychiatry and addictology;
- ENT, infant and child ENT;
- ophthalmology and child ophthalmology;
- general surgery and traumatology;
Beyond the abovementioned services, outpatient services are only accessible with a referral.
For further details, see: Referring order
If immediate medical care is necessary because of the patient’s medical condition, availing outpatient services would pose a disproportionately great risk for the patient, therefore, call 112 and ask for the paramedic service!
For the list of social-security-covered outpatient services click HERE.