clinic, name for an institution providing medical diagnosis and treatment for ambulatory patients. The forerunner of the modern clinic was the dispensary, which dispensed free drugs and served only those who could not afford to pay a fee. Dispensaries began to appear in London toward the end of the 17th cent. In the United States the first dispensary was founded in Philadelphia in 1786 through the efforts of Benjamin Rush. Another was established in New York City in 1791, and one in Boston in 1796. Home care was often provided by the early clinics, but later they evolved as places for treatment of those who could visit them. As the clinic movement grew and concern for public health increased, facilities for providing diagnosis and treatment improved. Present-day clinics are maintained by private and city hospitals, by city health departments, by industrial and labor organizations, and by groups of private physicians. Some clinics specialize in vaccination and other measures to prevent infectious disease. Some are established to promote the health of babies and mothers. Others exist to facilitate the diagnosis of tuberculosis or cancer so that these diseases may be treated as early as possible. There are also clinics concerned with mental health. Clinics designated as health centers offer all the health services that are considered essential. They provide free, comprehensive service for people who cannot afford private care. In some areas mobile units travel from place to place providing various kinds of medical and dental care. Clinics maintained by industrial and labor organizations are often free for members, but others charge a nominal fee; in hospital clinics the fee is usually based on the individual's ability to pay.

A clinic (or an outpatient clinic) is a small private or public health facility that is devoted to the care of outpatients, often in a community, in contrast to larger hospitals, which also treat inpatients. Some grow to be institutions as large as major hospitals, whilst retaining the name clinic. These are often associated with a hospital or medical school.

General practice clinics are run by one or more general practitioners or practice managers. Physiotherapy clinics are usually operated by physiotherapists and psychology clinics by clinical psychologists, and so on for each health profession. Some clinics are operated in-house by employers, government organizations or hospitals and some clinical services are outsourced to private corporations, specialising in provision of health services. In China, for example, owners of those clinics do not have formal medical education. Health care in India, China, Russia and Africa is provided to vast rural areas by mobile health clinics or roadside dispensaries, some of which integrate traditional health practices. In India these traditional clinics provide ayurvedic medicine and unani herbal medical practice. In each of these countries traditional medicine tends to be an hereditary practice.


The word derives from the Greek klinein meaning to slope, lean or recline. Hence kline a couch or bed, klinikos sloping or reclining and to Latin clinicus . An early use of the word clinic was, 'one who receives baptism on a sick bed' . Psychoanalytic clinics traditionally have the patient reclining on a couch to undergo analysis.


The function of clinics will differ from country to country. For instance, a local general practice run by a single general practitioner will provide primary health care, and will usually be run as a for-profit business by the owner whereas a government specialist clinic may provide subsidized specialized health care.

Some clinics function as a place for people with injuries or illnesses to come and be seen by triage nurse or other health worker. In these clinics, the injury or illness may not be serious enough to warrant a visit to an emergency room, but the person can be moved to one if required. Treatment at these clinics is often less expensive than it would be at a casualty department. Also, unlike an ER these clinics are often not open on a 24 x 7 x 365 basis. They sometimes have access to diagnostic equipment such as X-ray machines, especially if the clinic is part of a larger facility. Doctors at such clinics can often refer patients to specialists if the need arises.


  • In the United States, a free clinic provides free or low cost health care for those without insurance.
  • A Retail Based Clinic is housed in supermarkets and similar retail outlets providing walk in health care, which may be staffed by nurse practitioners.
  • A general out-patient clinic is a clinic offering a community general diagnoses or treatments without an overnight stay.
  • A polyclinic is a place where a wide range of health care services (including diagnostics) can be obtained without need of an overnight stay
  • A specialist clinic is a clinic with in-depth diagnosis or treatment on diseases of specific parts of the body. This type of clinic contrasts with general out-patient clinics, which deal with general diseases.


See also


Search another word or see clinicon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature