Definition of hospital acute care

Written by beth richards | 13/05/2017
Definition of hospital acute care
(Photo courtesy ariz)

Acute care is defined as the period of time or pattern of specialised health care during which a patient is treated for a severe injury or illness, trauma or during recovery time from surgery.


The philosophy behind an acute care hospital, or hospitals that have an acute care facility, is to discharge patients as soon as they are able to take care of or be taken care of on their own.

Hospital Acute Care

Hospital acute care is recovery time after surgery or treatment of severe illness or injury that is taken care of in a hospital setting and is most often done by highly specialised personnel. The use of sophisticated and multifaceted technical equipment is frequently involved.

Time Frame

While acute care may be involved with intensive or emergency care, the pattern is frequently only required for a short amount of time, unlike chronic care, according to Mosby's Medical Dictionary, Eighth Edition, 2009.

Acute Care versus Long Term Acute Care

Long Term Acute Care (LTAC) in hospitals is different from acute care in that most cases treated in a LTAC are there for 20 days or more. The actual length of time to fit this definition depends on the facility offering the long term care. Long Term Acute Care provides medically complex treatment and may include weaning patients off ventilators, occupational, speech or physical therapy, pulmonary, critical care and other rehabilitation.


Acute Care in a hospital and Long Term Acute Care is not the same as a nursing home or standard hospital care. The difference, according to is in the specialisation. Acute care is highly specialised and focuses on a smaller variety of illnesses than the traditional hospital or extended care facility.


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