Definition: Defining the Meaning of Health Care
Health care - (healthcare) is defined as the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease, illness, injury, and other physical and mental impairments in human beings. Health care is delivered by practitioners in allied health, dentistry, midwifery (obstetrics), medicine, nursing, optometry, pharmacy, psychology and other health professions. It refers to the work done in providing primary care, secondary care, and tertiary care, as well as in public health.
Primary care - Refers to the work of health professionals who act as a first point of consultation for all patients within the health care system.
Secondary care - The health care services provided by medical specialists and other health professionals who generally do not have first contact with patients, for example, cardiologists, urologists and dermatologists.
Tertiary care - Specialized consultative health care, usually for inpatients and on referral from a primary or secondary health professional, in a facility that has personnel and facilities for advanced medical investigation and treatment, such as a tertiary referral hospital.
Quaternary care - The term quaternary care is sometimes used as an extension of tertiary care in reference to advanced levels of medicine which are highly specialized and not widely accessed.
Home and community care - Many types of health care interventions are delivered outside of health facilities. They include many interventions of public health interest, such as food safety surveillance and distribution of needle-exchange programs for the prevention of transmissible diseases.
Health care, or healthcare, is the prevention, treatment, and management of illness and the preservation of health through services offered by the medical, dental, nursing, and allied health professions.
The organized provision of such services may constitute a health care system.
This can include specific governmental organizations such as, in the UK, the National Health Service or a cooperation across the National Health Service and Social Services as in Shared Care.
Compulsory government funded health insurance with nominal fees can be provided, as in Italy. Other examples are Medicare in Australia, established in the 1970s by the Labor government, and by the same name Medicare in Canada was established between 1966 and 1984. Universal health care contrasts to the systems like health care in the United States.
A health care provider or health professional is an organization or person who delivers proper health care in a systematic way professionally to any individual in need of health care services. A health care provider could be government, the health care industry, a health care equipment company, an institution such as a hospital or medical laboratory, physicians, dentists, support staff, nurses, therapists, psychologists, pharmacists, chiropractors, and optometrists.
Social health insurance is where the whole population or most of the population is a member of a sickness insurance company. Most health services are provided by private enterprises which act as contractors, billing the government for patient care.
Australia and New Zealand both have publicly funded universal health care systems, alongside ancillary private health care and insurance.
All of Europe has publicly sponsored and regulated health care
Countries include Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
In the United States Medicare System, the United States Department of Health and Human Services is the executive department responsible for health.
It is managed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, a member of the Cabinet. Health care in the United States is provided by many separate legal entities. Health care costs more per person in the U.S. than in any other nation in the world. Current estimates put U.S. health care spending at approximately 15.2% of GDP.
Certain publicly-funded health care programs help to provide for the elderly, disabled, children, veterans, and the poor, and federal law mandates public access to emergency services regardless of ability to pay. U.S. government programs accounted for over 45% of health care expenditures, making the U.S. government the largest insurer in the nation.
Americans without health insurance coverage at some time during 2007 totaled about 15.3% of the population, or 45.7 million people. Health insurance costs are rising faster than wages or inflation, and medical causes were cited by about half of bankruptcy filers in the United States.