OPD Vs IPD - What’s The Difference?

by SMCIB on Friday, 26 April 2024

OPD Vs IPD - What’s The Difference?

In today’s rapidly changing world, where unexpected health challenges can arise at any moment, having a reliable health insurance plan isn't just a luxury; it's a necessity. With India's healthcare landscape constantly evolving, understanding the intricacies of various health insurance aspects like OPD and IPD coverage becomes crucial. While both are designed to offer financial protection, they cater to different healthcare needs and scenarios.

But, what exactly do OPD and IPD mean? Let's clarify before delving deeper into the discussion:

OPD Full Form In Medical - OPD stands for Outpatient Department.

IPD Full Form In Medical - IPD stands for Inpatient Department.

In this article, we'll explore the intricacies of OPD and IPD coverage, including their definitions, differences, benefits, limitations, and much more. With this knowledge, you'll be equipped to secure robust protection for your healthcare needs and make well-informed decisions.

Why It's Essential To Purchase Health Insurance For Yourself?

There are several benefits to purchasing health insurance in India. Let’s discuss them below-

  1. Financial Protection
    In India, medical expenses are constantly on the rise. For treatments demanding specialised care or hospitalisation, the costs can often be overwhelming. Health insurance acts as a financial safety net, covering medical expenses and sparing you from shouldering the entire burden of healthcare costs on your own.
  2. Access To Better Healthcare
    With health insurance, you can receive cashless treatments at various network hospitals and clinics. This means that you can access top-notch healthcare without the hassle of arranging immediate funds.
  3. Coverage For Pre-Existing Conditions
    In health insurance terms, a Pre-Existing Disease (PED) refers to any ailment, injury, or illness that an individual may have had within 48 months prior to purchasing their health insurance policy. Most health plans in India cover pre-existing conditions after a specific timeframe called waiting period. This means you can get treatment for existing health problems without financial stress.
  4. Health Check-Ups And Preventative Care
    Certain health insurance plans include coverage for routine check-ups and preventive care, nudging you to make your health a top priority and take proactive steps to stay well.
  5. Increasing Healthcare Costs
    As healthcare expenses are perpetually increasing in India, having health insurance becomes crucial. It ensures you can manage these costs and access quality healthcare whenever necessary without depleting your savings.
  6. Tax Benefits
    You can avail of the tax benefits by claiming deductions on health insurance premiums under Section 80D of the Income Tax Act 1961. This not only boosts your savings but also ensures comprehensive health coverage for you.
  7. Peace Of Mind
    Having health insurance brings peace of mind, knowing you're financially secure for unforeseen medical emergencies and illnesses.

Understanding common acronyms is essential for effective communication in the medical field. So, what do OPD and IPD mean?

OPD Full Form In Medical - The full form of OPD is Outpatient Department.

OPD Full Form In Medical - The full form of IPD is Inpatient Department.

What Are IPD And OPD?

  • OPD Coverage: OPD or Outpatient Department coverage encompasses all the medical expenses incurred for doctor visits, diagnostics, and treatments that don't involve staying overnight in a hospital.
  • IPD Coverage: IPD or Inpatient Department coverage includes medical expenses for treatments that necessitate hospitalisation and spending a night in the hospital.

Difference Between OPD And IPD

Now, let’s explore an in-depth understanding of OPD and IPD coverage by exploring their fundamental differences below-





OPD (Outpatient Department) coverage includes medical expenses for consultations, diagnostics, and treatments that don't need an overnight hospital stay.


IPD (Inpatient Department) coverage includes medical expenses for treatments that necessitate hospitalisation or an overnight stay in a hospital.

Nature of treatment



OPD covers non-emergency procedures for which you do not need to be hospitalised.

IPD covers emergency or non-emergency medical procedures that require hospitalisation.

Coverage limit



OPD coverage entails a lower coverage limit compared to IPD coverage.

IPD covers a vast range of various medical expenses.


OPD covers routine appointments, diagnostic tests, minor procedures, and routine check-ups.



IPD covers situations necessitating ongoing observation, surgeries, and intricate medical procedures.

Stay duration



Patients do not need to remain in the hospital and can leave after receiving the necessary medical care.

In case of IPD, patients need to remain hospitalised for the entire duration of their treatment. This duration can range from a few days to a few weeks.

Nature of care



OPD is ideal for non-urgent needs, preventive health check-ups, and minor ailments or injuries. Patients can visit the healthcare facility, receive treatment, and return home on the same day.

IPD helps in optimal care resolution for critical medical conditions, surgeries, and instances necessitating continuous monitoring and treatment. Patients are admitted to the hospital for a specified period.

Treatment intensity



OPD typically entails less intensive medical interventions, primarily centred around diagnosing conditions, providing guidance, and prescribing medications.

IPD provides extensive medical intervention, specialised treatments, and thorough post-operative care to ensure optimal recovery and well-being.

Type of services



OPD encompasses appointments with healthcare providers, diagnostic procedures, vaccinations, wound care, and regular health examinations.

IPD involves significant surgical procedures, organ transplantations, management of intricate medical conditions, and post-surgery recovery.


How To Buy Health Insurance With OPD And IPD Coverage?

Let's look at the steps you need to follow to buy health insurance with OPD and IPD coverage -

  • Understand Your Healthcare Requirements
    Before proceeding with any particular health insurance policy, you should carefully analyse your specific healthcare requirements. It is pivotal to take into account factors like your and your family’s medical history, age, and lifestyle. Furthermore, IPD coverage becomes even more crucial for senior citizens as they may need frequent hospitalisation. So, make sure to explore senior citizen health insurance plans that offer comprehensive coverage, including both IPD and OPD.
  • Research Other Health Insurance Plans
    You should explore a variety of health insurance options provided by different insurers. Ensure you select the one that provides comprehensive coverage for both outpatient (OPD) and inpatient (IPD) expenses.
  • Compare Plans
    You should compare various health insurance plans in terms of coverage, premiums, exclusions, network hospitals, claim settlement ratio, etc. to find the ideal one that meets your requirements.
  • Examine The Coverage Details
    Make sure to read your policy documents thoroughly to grasp the scope of your coverage, outpatient (OPD) and inpatient (IPD) benefits, waiting periods, exclusions, the claim process, etc.
  • Selecting The Plan
    Choose a health insurance plan that provides extensive coverage for both IPD and OPD expenses and aligns with your financial requirements.
  • Apply For The Plan
    You need to fill out the application for your selected health insurance plan by providing accurate details about your medical history, health and contact details.
  • Submission Of The Necessary Documents
    Gather all the necessary documents, including proof of identity, address, age, medical documents(if needed), and income records(if needed) and attach them to your application form before submission.
  • Pay Premium
    As per the payment options offered by the insurance company, you can pay the premium for the health insurance plan online or through a cheque.
  • Get The Policy Documents
    After your application is processed and approved, you'll receive your policy documents, including your policy certificate, policy schedule, and any other relevant paperwork.
  • Comprehend The Claim Process
    You should be familiar with the claim process for both OPD and IPD treatments. You should pay particular attention to the documentation and the process to follow when submitting a claim.
  • Renew Your Policy On An Annual Basis
    Remember to renew your health insurance every year to keep it active. Pay the renewal premium before your policy expires to avoid a lapse in coverage.

Note: While most health insurance policies cover Inpatient Department (IPD) treatment, it's important to check if your chosen policy also includes coverage for Outpatient Department (OPD) expenses.

Let's break down how health insurance claims work for both OPD (Outpatient Department) and IPD (Inpatient Department) treatments in India.

How Do Claims Work For OPD Vs IPD?

In India, OPD (Outpatient Department) and IPD (Inpatient Department) claim procedures vary depending upon the types of treatments covered by the insurer. An outline of how OPD and IPD treatment claims are processed is provided below -

  1. OPD Claims
    Outpatient Department (OPD) claims are generally processed on a reimbursement basis. Here’s what you need to do -

    After you undergo treatments or consultations, it's vital to keep all original bills, receipts, and medical reports concerning OPD services, such as consultations, diagnostic tests, pharmacy expenses, and procedures.

    You can initiate a reimbursement claim by submitting these documents, along with a completed claim form, to your insurance provider. Your insurer can also request additional documents for claim processing. They will evaluate the claim according to the terms and conditions outlined in the policy. Upon approval, the insurance company will reimburse the eligible expenses in accordance with the coverage and limits specified in the policy.
  2. IPD Claims
    IPD claims can be submitted as both reimbursement or cashless basis.

Cashless Claims

Cashless IPD claims are related to health insurance plans that provide cashless services at network hospitals - healthcare facilities that have partnerships with the insurance company. You can file a cashless claim by following the below steps  -

  1. Notification
    When you need to stay in a network hospital for inpatient treatment, you can simply inform either the insurance company or a third-party administrator (TPA) about your hospitalisation.
  2. Authorisation Letter
    Following that, the insurance company or the TPA will provide the hospital with an authorization letter. The letter will specify the coverage details and the maximum limit up to which they'll settle the bill with the hospital.
  3. Direct Billing
    The patient doesn't need to cover the expenses personally; the insurance company handles the bills directly with the hospital, covering all medical expenses included in the policy.
    You may still need to handle non-covered expenses or co-payments, depending on the specifics of their insurance policy.

Reimbursement Claims

Reimbursement IPD claims come into play when a patient undergoes inpatient treatment at a non-network hospital or when cashless services aren't available under your health insurance policy.  In such instances, you or your family must pay for the hospitalisation expenses upfront and claim reimbursement later from the insurer. Here’s how you can file a reimbursement claim -

  1. Gather The Documents
    Following discharge, the patient must gather all pertinent bills, invoices, and medical reports from the hospital. These documents offer a comprehensive breakdown of the services provided and associated costs.
  2. Document Submission
    You must then produce these documents, along with a completed claim form, to either the insurance company or TPA within the designated timeframe outlined in the policy.
  3. Claim Approval
    The insurance company will analyse the claim and documents to ensure they align with the terms and conditions outlined in the policy.

Upon approval of the claim, the insurance company will reimburse you for the eligible expenses, typically through a bank transfer or by issuing a cheque. The reimbursement amount is contingent upon the policy's terms, conditions, and coverage limits.

You  may have to bear the responsibility for any deductibles, co-payments, or non-covered expenses as defined in the policy .

Now, let's examine why purchasing health insurance for yourself is crucial in India, uncovering the multitude of advantages it brings to ensure your health and financial stability.

Benefits Of OPD & IPD Management Using HIMS

With the rapid expansion of healthcare services, hospitals are relying more on a technological innovation known as Hospital Information Management Systems (HIMS). This system is designed to streamline Inpatient (IPD) and Outpatient (OPD) processes, ensuring patients receive optimal care and services without unnecessary delays. By integrating various departments within a hospital, HIMS enhances efficiency and ensures that all tasks are carried out seamlessly.

Let’s understand the benefits of OPD and IPD management using HIMS below-

  • OPD
    HIMS facilitates the efficient management of various Outpatient Department (OPD) processes. It enables accurate diagnosis of all health conditions, simplifies billing and appointment scheduling, and issues electronic prescriptions. Moreover, it offers centralised supervision of doctors, enhancing coordination and patient care.
  • IPD
    HIMS also plays a pivotal role in several IPD processes, such as preparing discharge summaries, ensuring a smooth registration process for the patients during their admission, managing and allocating beds to the patients, billing and preparing medical reports, etc.

Limitations To OPD & IPD Coverage In Health Insurance Plans

Health insurance plans in India providing coverage for outpatient or inpatient services may have specific restrictions and exclusions to consider. Below are some limitations associated with both types of coverage -

  • Coverage Limits
    When exploring the best health insurance plans for family in India, it’s imperative to assess the extent of coverage for both OPD and IPD treatments to ensure holistic protection of your loved ones’ unique healthcare needs. Generally, health insurance plans impose a limit on the total amount that can be claimed for IPD or OPD expenses in a policy year. Some insurance companies may cover  OPD expenses up to a certain percentage of your sum insured or up to a specific amount. Likewise, the IPD expenses are covered up to the sum insured. Once this threshold is reached, you cannot make further claims for the remainder of the policy year. 
  • Pre-Existing Illnesses
    Certain health insurance policies might impose a waiting period before extending coverage to pre-existing conditions in case of both  OPD or IPD treatments. During this timeframe, expenses associated with pre-existing conditions may not be covered by the policy.
  • Co-Payment
    Some health insurance plans might ask you to pay a certain percentage of your medical bills out of your own pocket, which is called a co-payment, before the insurer starts paying up. This applies to both OPD and IPD treatments, with variations depending on the specific plan you choose.
  • Sub-Limits
    Certain health insurance plans set sub-limits on particular treatments, procedures, or room rent for IPD coverage. This means that you can only claim a specific amount for these services, regardless of the overall coverage limit.
  • Waiting Periods
    Many health insurance plans have waiting periods for specific treatments or procedures, particularly outpatient (OPD) coverage. This implies that you'll need to wait for a certain period before you can claim expenses for these treatments.
  • Exclusions
    Many health insurance plans do not cover certain treatments, procedures, or conditions. Some of the exclusions are cosmetic procedures, alternative therapies, self-inflicted injuries, injuries occurring while engaging in unlawful activities, etc.
  • Non-Medical Expenses
    Unless otherwise specified in the policy, most health insurance policies do not cover non-medical costs such as hospital food bills, attendant fees,  transportation costs, etc.
  • Geographical Limitations
    Certain health insurance plans may have restrictions on coverage when travelling abroad or within certain geographic areas. So, it's crucial to dive into the nitty-gritty of your policy terms and conditions.
  • Renewal Of Policy
    Annual renewal of health insurance policies is essential to maintaining continuous coverage. Not renewing your policy on time could lead to a lapse in coverage, making you ineligible for benefits.

What Factors Should I Consider When Choosing Between OPD And IPD Coverage?

Deciding between OPD (Outpatient Department) and IPD (Inpatient Department) coverage relies on various factors. Let’s understand them below -

  1. Healthcare Requirements
    When deciding between OPD or IPD coverage, consider your current and future healthcare needs. Assess your healthcare needs to determine if you require coverage for frequent doctor visits, diagnostic tests, or non-hospital treatments. Given that all plans include In-Patient Department (IPD) coverage, you may opt for a plan that additionally covers Out-Patient Department (OPD) expenses if you foresee incurring higher outpatient costs.
  2. Budget
    Assess your budget alongside the premium costs linked with OPD and IPD coverage. While OPD coverage tends to be cheaper than IPD coverage, it might come with restrictions on coverage and treatments.
  3. Limits On Coverage
    Make sure that you compare the coverage limits provided by various health insurance plans for OPD and IPD coverage. The coverage limits should match your healthcare requirements and financial situation.
  4. Pre-Existing Conditions
    If you've got ongoing health issues needing frequent care, think about whether OPD coverage can handle those expenses or if IPD coverage suits you better.
  5. Risk And Lifestyle Factors
    Before going forward with OPD or IPD coverage, consider your lifestyle, job, and any risk factors that could raise your chances of ending up in the hospital. If you often find yourself at risk of accidents or falling ill to the point of needing hospital care, IPD coverage could be your best bet.
  6. Network Hospitals
    Make sure to review the network hospitals and healthcare providers included in your health insurance plan. Confirm that there are sufficient facilities in your vicinity offering cashless treatment options for both OPD and IPD treatments.
  7. Policy Benefits And Features
    Assess the additional features and advantages provided by the health insurance plan, including maternity coverage, wellness benefits, and alternative treatment coverage. You should select the plan that matches your healthcare requirements and offers all-around coverage.
  8. Future Planning
    You must contemplate your future medical needs and whether your decision between OPD or IPD coverage allows for flexibility in accommodating any changes to your health or lifestyle.
  9. Consultation
    If you're uncertain about which coverage option is best for you, consider reaching out to a healthcare professional or insurance advisor. They can offer personalised guidance tailored to your unique situation.
  10. Tax Advantages
    It is pivotal to take into account the tax benefits available under Section 80D of the Income Tax Act, 1961 for the premiums paid towards health insurance. You should consider this while making your decision, as the premiums for both OPD and IPD coverage qualify for tax deductions.

Thus, it's crucial to choose a policy that strikes a balance between IPD and OPD coverage. While most insurance policies cover inpatient department (IPD) expenses, only a few extend coverage to outpatient department (OPD) expenses. Be sure to thoroughly review all policy documents before making a purchase.

Summing Up!

Selecting the right health insurance, including OPD and IPD coverage, entails careful consideration of various factors such as your healthcare needs, budget, coverage limits, pre-existing conditions, etc. By weighing these factors and understanding the nuances of each coverage option, you can make an informed decision that guarantees comprehensive protection for you and your loved ones. Remember to review policy documents thoroughly and consult with healthcare professionals or insurance advisors if needed.


While all standard health insurance policies include coverage for inpatient department (IPD) expenses, not all policies extend coverage to outpatient department (OPD) expenses.

OPD is ideal for regular check-ups, preventive care, and minor health concerns, offering a budget-friendly and convenient choice. Conversely, IPD is tailored for severe medical conditions necessitating intensive care, surgeries, or prolonged hospitalisation.

While all standard health insurance policies include IPD expenses, the coverage for OPD expenses will vary depending on the specific insurance plan you choose. While certain insurance companies may not offer OPD coverage, others provide it as an optional add-on benefit.

OPD coverage becomes essential if you often need outpatient services like doctor consultations, diagnostic tests, or minor treatments. This coverage can help you save on these expenses and offer a safety net against unforeseen medical expenditures.

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