With increasingly strict guidelines for insurance coverage, hospitals have adopted meticulous resource utilization review and management processes. It is important for physicians to appreciate that careful documentation of certain patient parameters may not only optimize the facility's reimbursement but have profound impact on the patient's out-of-pocket expenses. Hospital utilization teams have access to the frequently changing national payor guidelines for policy benefits, usually revolving around whether the patient meets medical necessity criteria for being classified as an "inpatient" vs. an "observation" outpatient. Those statuses are not merely time-based, and lead to marked differences in patient deductibles and coverage for medication, room, procedure, laboratory, and ancillary charges. There are nationally-recognized guidelines for classification, based on severity of illness and intensity of services provided. By participating in case management activities, physicians can have an important patient advocate role, and thereby minimize the financial burden to these individuals and their families.