Word of the Week: Observation

illustration of scientist looking into microscope - word of the week

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Each week, Verywell explains a term from health, medicine, science, or technology.


How to say itObservation (ob-sur-VAY-shun)

What it meansKeeping an eye on a patient to see if they get better or worse before starting or changing treatment.

Where it comes from: Latin, observare, “to watch”

Physician assistant checks patient in hospital bed

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Where you might see or hear it: If you are sick enough to need medical care but your provider is not sure that you should be admitted to the hospital as an inpatient, they might put you in “observation” status.

This gives them a chance to keep an eye on you and see if your symptoms change. Based on what happens you will either be able to go home (be discharged) or be put in the hospital as an inpatient for more treatment (admitted).

When you might want to use it: Observation status can be very useful for your provider because it gives them time to make an informed decision about the next steps in your medical care.

However, there are some downsides to observation for you as a patient. For example, your insurance may not pay for observation or won’t pay as much as they would for another kind of care.

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