Inpatient vs. outpatient: What employers need to know

January 21, 2021


Have you come across the word ‘inpatient’ and ‘outpatient’ when surveying corporate insurance? 

Chances are, most of the insurance companies you’ve engaged require you to purchase both inpatient and outpatient plans.

But what do inpatient and outpatient mean and what’s the difference between them?

Understanding their characteristics and differences could help you make wiser and cost-saving decisions when purchasing employee group insurance. 

As the cost of healthcare is rising at an average of 7% per year and will continue to rise for years to come, what you’re about to learn could save your organisation from damaging high costs of healthcare premiums.

What is outpatient?

When patients are sick, injured, or require certain types of testing or treatment but do not require the overnight monitoring and care of a hospital, they are considered outpatients. 

Examples of outpatient care are:

  • Consultations with specialists or General Practitioners (GP),
  • Wellness and prevention services such as psychological counselling and weight-loss programs,
  • Diagnostics services like blood and urine lab tests, x-rays, and scans,
  • Treatments such as surgeries and therapies without needing hospital care,
  • Rehabilitation like physiotherapy.

Outpatient costs in Malaysia

In Malaysia, outpatient care is provided in two tiers: public and private. 

In public hospitals, the outpatient and inpatient care costs could range from RM 1 to RM 5 per visit. 

In private settings, the cost of a visit to general practitioners is between RM 30 and RM 125, and specialist consultations could cost from RM 80 to RM 235.

Outpatient costs in Singapore

In Singapore, outpatient care is provided in the same tiers as Malaysia: public and private. 

Plus another tier for patients in public hospitals only, namely private and subsidised patients. As the name implies, subsidised patients incur lower medical costs compared to private patients.

Table 1: Outpatient costs based on tier and patient classification in Singapore.


Tip: Read more on the pros and cons of outpatient insurance to help you make wiser decisions before purchasing healthcare plans.

What is inpatient?

Unlike outpatient where the person doesn’t require admission into a hospital, an inpatient is a sick or injured patient who needs to stay overnight in a hospital for close monitoring and treatment. 

Examples of inpatient care are:

  • Surgeries, routine and complex,
  • Childbirth,
  • Serious illnesses or health issues that require substantial monitoring
  • Rehabilitation services for severe injuries, substance misuse, or psychiatric conditions.

Without a doubt, inpatient costs are substantially higher than outpatient costs because inpatient care uses more hospital resources, including beds, and the time of healthcare professionals. 

Inpatient costs in Malaysia

Table 2: Average inpatient costs in the public and private sectors in Malaysia


Inpatient costs in Singapore

Table 3: Average costs for inpatient care in Singapore.


Why are employers paying so much for underutilized inpatient plans?

Now that you’re aware of the differences between inpatient and outpatient, you probably have realized two critical things:

  1. Inpatient costs are much higher than outpatient costs
  2. Outpatient care is used more often and immediate than inpatient care

And here’s the current problem most organisations are facing: 

You are paying for inpatient care costs in your insurance plans even though your employees don’t use inpatient services that much. As a result, this puts an unnecessary financial burden on your annual budget. 

Even more so if your company consists of fairly young and healthy employees, it is less likely for them to be hospitalized and claim inpatient charges.

Tip: In Singapore, its citizens can use Medishield to claim large hospital bills and specific costly outpatient treatments such as chemotherapy and dialysis. Whereas in Malaysia, its citizens can access affordable treatments starting from RM 1 in public hospitals.

However, all insurance companies require you to pay for an inpatient plan if you want to be insured for outpatient care. 

You might ask, “why can’t they provide an outpatient plan only?” 

Great question! It’s because insurance companies earn the most from inpatient plans since they cost a lot. They can’t earn much from outpatient care (even though they’re being used the most by employees) hence they bundle them up together. 

Unable to stand and watch companies like you paying unnecessary premiums for underutilized inpatient premiums, the Mednefits team has launched an outpatient-only plan called ‘Mednefits Enterprise Plan' - Designed for companies that want to provide an outpatient benefits plan for employee essentials. 

What’s really meaningful for you and your employees is this:

You get to pay only a fraction of the usual healthcare premium but can still cover your employee’s healthcare essential needs. 

We understand that healthcare premiums are rising every year, and it’s stretching your organisation’s budget to the edge. 

Instead of cutting down benefits (which may compromise your employees’ well-being), why not optimize your benefits costs while maintaining protection? 

Give your employees the protection they deserve and still optimise your HR budget with the Mednefits Enterprise Plan. 

About Mednefits:

Mednefits helps businesses take care of their employees with its automated, affordable, and accessible employee benefits platform. Request to join Mednefits for free to help process and track claims in real-time, while controlling costs.

Get the e-book: a guide to employee medical benefits for SMEs

Let's get started.

More from The Benefits Blog