nurse setting up an IV for a patient

What Are Ancillary Services In Healthcare?

Ancillary services describe the supportive or diagnostic solutions that work in tandem with the care provided by a primary doctor or other healthcare provider. Typically, patients are asked to go to other facilities outside their regular doctor’s office to receive these services. Without these services, a primary doctor would be unable to treat the patient fully and, in some cases, unable to provide a thorough diagnosis.

Ancillary services fall under these categories: diagnosis, therapeutic, and custodial. Let’s take a closer look at these types of services and how they play a critical role in healthcare and proper patient care.

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Diagnostic Ancillary Services

In short, diagnostic ancillary services are categorized as the type of medical services that help primary physicians properly detect and diagnose a variety of conditions or diseases.


Audiology refers to the area of medicine that focuses on hearing, balance, and associated disorders and diseases. Audiology relies on the latest technological advancements to provide the most current diagnosis and treatments for hearing and balance issues so that patients receive the best care possible. An audiologist provides this type of care and specializes in education and training to identify, treat, and rehabilitate hearing and balance issues.

Blood Test

Blood tests refer to an umbrella of testing that health providers utilize to monitor a variety of health concerns. It’s not uncommon for people to have blood work done as part of preventative care and annual exams, but it may also be ordered if you are experiencing certain symptoms.

Blood tests may evaluate certain levels of minerals and platelets in the blood, while others may evaluate hormone or protein levels. For many people, blood tests can be the first step in properly diagnosing a medical condition.

Cardiac Monitoring

Cardiac monitoring allows health professionals to monitor the heart activity of patients whose symptoms occur more sporadically. Different types of devices can be used for cardiac monitoring that can be carried by hand, on the wrist, or worn in the pocket. Typically, the monitoring lasts for 30 days at a time. The results allow doctors to make conclusions about heart conditions and determine if further testing or treatment is necessary.

Genetic Testing

Genetic testing is used to identify any changes in chromosomes, genes, or proteins that determine if a person has or carries certain genetic disorders. Genetic testing is considered voluntary and can present both benefits and limitations. Given the personal nature of genetic testing, patients with concerns should discuss whether testing is appropriate and necessary with a genetic counselor.

Laboratory Tests

Laboratory tests can include a variety of tests that focus on a person’s blood, urine, or body tissue. The sample is then evaluated to determine if it falls into a normal range based on factors such as sex, age, medical history, or diet. Like blood tests, laboratory tests are often part of your annual checkup but may also be conducted to rule out certain medical conditions.

Mobile Diagnostic Services

Mobile diagnostic services refer to ancillary services that bring diagnostic testing and medical imaging directly to patients, such as to homes, workplaces, or other convenient locations. This approach offers increased accessibility and convenience, particularly for people who may have difficulty traveling to and from medical offices. Mobile diagnostic services cover a range of diagnostic tests and imaging procedures such as X-rays or ultrasounds.

Radiology/Diagnostic Imaging

Radiology, also known as diagnostic imaging, is a medical specialty that uses various techniques to visualize the body’s internal structures for diagnosis and treatment planning. These imaging techniques help healthcare professionals understand the nature of diseases, injuries, or abnormalities without the need for invasive procedures.

Sleep Laboratory Services

Sleep laboratory services, also known as sleep studies or polysomnography, are specialized medical services that focus on diagnosing and treating sleep disorders. These services typically involve monitoring various physiological parameters during sleep to assess patterns, identify abnormalities, and guide treatment recommendations.


Telemedicine refers to the use of technology to provide healthcare services remotely. It involves the exchange of medical information through electronic communication to facilitate diagnosis, treatment, and ongoing care. Telemedicine utilizes various communication tools, such as video conferencing, phone calls, secure messaging, and mobile health apps, to connect patients with healthcare professionals.

Therapeutic Ancillary Services

Therapeutic ancillary services refer to additional support and interventions provided in conjunction with primary therapeutic treatments to enhance individuals’ overall well-being and recovery. These services are often supplementary and contribute to a comprehensive and holistic approach to healthcare.

woman getting a cosmetic treatment

Allergy Services

Ancillary allergy services include identification, diagnosis, and state-of-the-art testing and immunotherapy treatment that work better than over-the-counter allergy medications because they aim to treat the cause of the allergy instead of only reducing symptoms. Allergen immunotherapy works by decreasing your body’s sensitivity to allergens and increasing your body’s immunity to allergens.

Common allergens that you can be tested for include:

  • Cedar
  • Dust
  • Grasses
  • Insects
  • Molds
  • Oak
  • Pets
  • Pollen

Allergy testing is available for adults and children aged two years and older, but you will need to be cleared for allergy testing by your doctor if you are pregnant and/or breastfeeding, if you have uncontrolled asthma, or if you take beta-blocker medication. The allergy testing process takes about 15 minutes to complete and involves pain-free skin testing, the most accurate and reliable test available for allergies.

Behavioral and Mental Health Services

Ancillary behavioral and mental health services help ensure you receive individualized care rather than given generic solutions that may not work well in your unique situation. Many of these services appeal to personal recreational interests, such as animals, art, and music.

  • Art and music therapy can help you identify and express pent-up feelings in a healthy and productive way.
  • Biofeedback incorporates guided imagery, sound therapy, and vibrations to induce a meditative state. It can be helpful in treating anxiety.
  • Equine therapy is a form of pet therapy in which you spend time with horses. Animals have a profound impact on mental health.1
  • Meditation and yoga can improve life balance and peace of mind. These practices also offer physical benefits such as increased energy and physical strength and improved cardiovascular endurance and respiratory health.

Other types of ancillary services for coping with behavioral and mental health issues include:

  • Chiropractic therapy
  • Nutritional therapy
  • Reality therapy
  • Smoking cessation

Chiropractic Services

Ancillary chiropractic services aim to find and treat pain in your joints, ligaments, and muscles throughout your body, but usually in your back and spine. The idea behind chiropractic care is that properly aligning your spine and other joints can help your body heal from injury.

Misalignment of your spine puts pressure on your nerves, causing pain and other issues. Chiropractic care reduces pain from nerve pressure and can help you recover more quickly from an injury, increase your range of motion, and make it so you do not need to take as much pain medication.

Other benefits of chiropractic care include improved immune system function, posture, and sleep quality. Chiropractic care performed by a licensed and trained professional is generally safe, but this treatment may cause temporary soreness and stiffness.

Diabetes Education

Diabetes education consists of one-on-one consultations, group classes, and programs to help you learn to prevent or manage diabetes. It involves a multidisciplinary approach to help you come up with individual goals and treatment plans.

There are also a variety of classes and support programs for people who have a loved one who has diabetes. Classes for people who have diabetes incorporate and encourage the use of self-management skills like exercise, medication, and stress reduction to manage diabetes.

Gestational diabetes management includes determining caloric needs, meal planning, and monitoring skills. During individual counseling, you meet one-on-one with a registered dietitian/diabetes educator to analyze your personal goals in the areas of exercise, nutrition, and overall health. A diabetes educator can also help you manage related conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and weight issues.


The purpose of dialysis treatment is to help rid your blood of extra fluid and waste products when your kidneys cannot perform this function as they normally do, such as if you have an acute kidney injury (AKI) or kidney failure. Dialysis also helps you maintain normal blood pressure and safe blood levels of minerals such as calcium, potassium, and sodium.

There are two types of dialysis: hemodialysis (HD) and peritoneal dialysis (PD). In HD, a filtering machine known as a dialyzer removes your blood from your body a little at a time, filters out waste and excess fluid from your blood outside of your body, and then returns the filtered blood back into your body. In PD, your blood is filtered without being removed from your body.

Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy helps you perform activities referred to as occupations. For example, in a school setting, occupational therapy will help students actively participate in both academic and non-academic activities throughout the school day. School occupational therapists are also responsible for educating parents and school staff members such as teachers and administrators.

There are many components of occupational therapy, including:

  • Analyzing activities and environments and recommending ways to improve access, participation, and progress
  • Helping to identify long-term goals
  • Preparing clients for successful transition into employment, further education, and/or independent living
  • Providing assistive technology
  • Reducing barriers that limit participation
  • Supporting the needs of clients who have significant challenges, such as by helping determine alternatives and modifications to certain activities

Med Spa

A med spa offers nonsurgical aesthetic medical treatments performed by aesthetic nurse practitioners and supervised by a licensed physician such as a plastic surgeon.
Treatments commonly offered by med spas include:

  • Botulinum toxin injections such as Botox, Dysport, and Xeomin
  • Injectable dermal fillers
  • Laser hair removal
  • Laser skin resurfacing
  • Microdermabrasion
  • Non Surgical fat reduction
  • Tattoo removal

If you want to use a med spa to correct skin issues, you may be able to get a comprehensive complexion analysis done. For this analysis, your provider will use high-resolution computerized imaging to guide them in assessing your skin and developing your treatment plan. A high-quality med spa will also do a follow-up analysis to review your treatment plan’s results.

Many of the treatments offered at a med spa are not one-and-done procedures; rather, they are more likely to be fulfilled over several appointments. Some med spas offer loyalty programs, monthly memberships, or subscription services to make it easier and more affordable for you to complete your full course of treatment.

It is a good idea to ask to see before and after pictures of past clients so you can get an idea of the quality of the practitioner’s work before you have them perform any procedures on you.

Nutrition and Food Service

Patients can seek guidance on diet and nutrition either from private dietician/nutritionist practices or from a program. The foods you eat have a direct impact on many health conditions and concerns, including:

  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Fiber
  • Food and drug interactions
  • Healthy Aging
  • Heart health (managing high blood pressure and high cholesterol)
  • Kidney disease
  • Neurological disorders and spinal cord injuries
  • Plant-based and sustainable eating
  • Vitamins and supplements
  • Weight management (helping you lose or gain weight in order to reach a healthy weight)
  • Wellness and healthy living
  • Women’s Health

An example of a program providing guidance for a healthier diet is Nutrition and Food Service (NFS), which provides quality food for Veteran patients. This program is led by NFS Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) who offer nutrition education and counseling to increase wellness and prevent disease.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy (PT) focuses on exercise and musculoskeletal medicine to help you recover and rehabilitate after an injury or surgery. Physicians and physical therapists share equipment, facilities, office space, patients, and personnel in ancillary physical therapy, and they work together to improve patient care. Being able to see your doctor and physical therapist at the same time and place can help you miss less work and recover more quickly.

Speech Therapy

Speech therapy is a treatment that improves speaking and other language skills. It helps you communicate your thoughts to others and improve your comprehension of what others say to you. It can also strengthen your memory and problem-solving abilities. Speech therapy is administered by speech-language pathologists (also known as SLPs or speech therapists).
Speech therapy is helpful in treating a wide range of conditions, including:

  • Aphasia
  • Apraxia
  • Articulation disorder
  • Cognitive-communication disorders
  • Dysarthria
  • Expressive disorders
  • Fluency disorders
  • Receptive disorders
  • Resonance disorders

Speech therapy is effective for both adults and children. The activities done during speech therapy sessions vary based on the patient’s age. Speech therapy for children typically includes play through language-based board games or sequencing activities. Speech therapy for adults typically focuses on correcting or reestablishing certain skill sets, such as improving brain-mouth coordination.

Ventilator Services

If you have respiratory failure, you may need to be put on a mechanical ventilator (sometimes called a breathing machine) if you are having trouble breathing or getting sufficient oxygen into your blood.2 Mechanical ventilators move air in and out of your lungs, and your doctor will adjust the machine’s settings so it pushes the right amount of air into your lungs at the right times.

You will need a mask or, in more severe cases, a breathing tube to deliver the oxygen from the machine to your lungs. When your condition has improved enough for you to breathe on your own again, your doctor will gradually reduce the flow of oxygen from the ventilator (a process referred to as weaning off) until it can be removed.

Ventilators are usually used in air ambulances, ground ambulances, and hospitals, but you may be able to use a ventilator in your home if you have a long-term need for it and you have a caregiver who is trained in how to administer and manage ventilator care.

Possible risks associated with being on a ventilator include vocal cord damage and an increased risk of developing pneumonia.

Wound Care

Wound care avoids infection, reduces pain, and stimulates healing. Severe wounds need to be treated in a hospital, but some wounds can be treated at home or in a skilled nursing facility.
Features of a hospital complex wound care program include specialized care, focused rehabilitation services, and patient and family support services.

Receiving wound care in a hospital ensures that your care team will use the most up-to-date technology and treatment, including wound analysis, monitoring, specially designed beds and equipment, and an on-site laboratory for medication management services and testing.

Treatment may also include antibiotics and nutrition support. Rehabilitation services may include occupational, physical, and/or speech-language therapy to restore the ability to perform self-care, movement, and strength. In addition to patient support, education and support are also available for the patient’s family members.

Custodial Ancillary Services

Custodial ancillary services (care-delivery services) help patients remain independent in daily living. These services assist patients with completing tasks such as dressing, bathing, and eating.

Continue reading to learn more about the different types of custodial ancillary services that may be available to you.

nurse setting up an IV for a patient

Care delivery services are responsible for ensuring that patients undergo proper medical care in healthcare facilities such as clinics, hospitals, and medical centers.

There are four main components in a healthcare delivery system:

  • Payers: Private health insurance companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield and government-funded health insurance companies like Medicaid and Medicare
  • Providers: Medical professionals such as nurses, pharmacists, and physicians
  • Facilities: Clinics, hospitals, and nursing homes
  • Patients: Individuals who receive care from healthcare providers and facilities

Care delivery services are important because they promote health and provide emergency medical services, ongoing treatment for illnesses, and prevention methods such as vaccines and routine health screenings.

There are four main types of healthcare delivery systems:

  • Primary care is used to diagnose and treat health conditions, determine the urgency of a medical condition, and refer patients to specialists when necessary.
  • Secondary care such as planned surgeries, rehabilitation services, and specialists like cardiologists (heart doctors).
  • Tertiary care to treat conditions like cancer and severe burns or provide palliative care or cardiac surgery, neurosurgery, organ transplants, or plastic surgery.
  • Quaternary care utilizes experimental or novel medications and treatments, specialized surgeries, and uncommon diagnostic procedures for patients with complex or rare health conditions.

Home health care encompasses a wide range of healthcare services that can be provided for you in your home to treat an illness or injury. Home healthcare is equally effective, more convenient, and less expensive compared to care in a hospital or skilled nursing facility (SNF).

You can expect a home healthcare provider to do the following tasks:

  • Administer injections or intravenous (IV) or nutrition therapy
  • Ask if you are feeling any pain
  • Care for wounds such as pressure sores or a surgical incision
  • Check what you are eating and drinking
  • Coordinate your care by communicating with you, your doctor or other healthcare provider, and anyone else who cares for you, such as your family and friends
  • Ensure your safety in your home
  • Make sure you are taking your medications and other treatments correctly
  • Monitor health indicators like your blood pressure, breathing, heart rate, and temperature
  • Teach you about ways you can take care of yourself

Home infusion care is used to administer IV or other injectable medication in your home instead of in a healthcare facility. It is cost-effective, safe, and minimizes interruptions in patients’ daily lives.

You may need to have home infusion care if you have one of the following health conditions:

  • Congestive heart failure
  • Dehydration
  • Gastrointestinal diseases and disorders
  • Hemophilia
  • Immune deficiencies
  • Infections
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Neurological disorders
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

In order to receive home infusion care, you will need a prescription from your doctor. Home infusion care is most often provided by a closed-door pharmacy that is licensed by the state you live in. The pharmacy provides the medication and supplies for your infusions, and a nurse administers the infusions for you.

Hospice care helps patients who have a terminal illness and are nearing the end of their life to maintain their quality of life during this stage. It also helps caregivers deal with their grief and other related challenges.

Hospice care neither aims to hasten or postpone death. It treats the person and the symptoms of the disease rather than the disease itself. It allows for increased comfort, dignity, and quality of life at the end of a patient’s life.

Medical daycare is a nursing home alternative for people who do not need round-the-clock skilled nursing care. These programs are helpful for caregivers who also work another job so they can work while their patient is in daycare or for family members acting as full-time caregivers to have respite from their caregiving responsibilities. Medical daycare programs help participants by engaging in mental and physical activity, preventing a decline in their abilities, and reducing social isolation.

Services offered by adult daycare programs may include:

  • Art
  • Dietary counseling
  • Games
  • Health monitoring
  • Meals
  • Occupational therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Singing
  • Social work
  • Speech therapy

Depending on their needs, people usually attend adult daycare programs two to five days each week for four to eight hours each day. It is common for programs to offer transportation or assistance in coordinating transportation to and from the facility. Many programs also offer support groups and training for caregivers.

Nursing homes (also known as skilled nursing facilities) provide many healthcare and personal care services.3 Nursing homes provide 24-hour care, three meals per day, and assistance with daily living tasks. They also provide nursing care and occupational, physical, and speech therapy.

Private duty nursing (PDN) provides quality, in-home skilled nursing care to people who are medically fragile. PDN services are less expensive than receiving care in a facility. PDN gives patients 24/7 on-call access to support, including weekends and holidays.

Some of the services that PDN can provide include:

  • Administering medications and therapies
  • Assisting with appointments
  • Communicating changes in patient condition to the office and physicians
  • Diabetes management
  • G-tube care and management
  • Managing home medical equipment and supplies
  • Meal preparation
  • Oxygen management
  • Personal care
  • Promoting home education
  • Reinforcing education provided by hospital staff
  • Seizure management
  • Total parenteral nutrition (TPN) infusion
  • Tracheostomy and ventilator care

Are Ancillary Services Covered By Insurance?

Typically, yes. Ancillary services are usually covered by insurance if your plan includes it. It is important that you review your insurance plan to determine whether or not it is covered prior to the services. Usually, ancillary benefits are considered secondary insurance that is used to supplement group health insurance. Many people opt for this secondary benefit in order to offset any of the surprise costs often associated with ancillary services.

Last Words

Ancillary medical services contribute to a comprehensive and integrated approach to healthcare. These services work to address various aspects of a patient’s well-being beyond the core medical treatments. These services are often coordinated to provide a holistic and patient-centered approach to healthcare delivery and ensure that patients are getting faster diagnoses and better treatment plans. The importance of these services cannot be ignored, and they often play a critical role in ensuring that patients are getting comprehensive care.

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[1] Equine‐assisted therapies using horses as healers: A concept analysis. White-Lewis S.

[2] What Is a Ventilator?

[3] Long-Term Care Facilities: Assisted Living, Nursing Homes, and Other Residential Care.

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