Medical observation is a medical service aimed at continued care of selected patients, usually for a period of 6 to 24 hours, to determine their need for inpatient admission. This service is usually provided in emergency departments.
A patient held for observation is not admitted to the hospital. In the United States, some Medicare patients have spent several days at the hospital, but never officially being in the hospital, which results in unexpected bills and makes them ineligible for Medicare payment for some future necessary services, especially skilled nursing care.
- "Are You a Hospital Inpatient or Outpatient? Publication #11435". Medicare. February 2011. Retrieved 21 March 2013.