Health care, or healthcare, refers to the treatment and management of illness, and the preservation of health through health care services offered by the medical, pharmaceutical, dental, clinical laboratory sciences (in vitro diagnostics), nursing, and allied health professions. Health care embraces all the goods and services designed to promote health, including “preventive, curative and palliative interventions, whether directed to individuals or to populations”.
Before the term health care became popular, English-speakers referred to medicine or to the health sector and spoke of the treatment and prevention of illness and disease.
Health Care Industry
The health care industry is considered an industry or profession which includes peoples' exercise of skill or judgment or the providing of a service related to the preservation or improvement of the health of individuals or the treatment or care of individuals who are injured, sick, disabled, or infirm. The delivery of modern health care depends on an expanding group of trained professionals coming together as an interdisciplinary team.
Consuming just fewer than 10 percent of gross domestic product of most developed nations, health care can form an enormous part of a country's economy. In 2003, health care costs paid to hospitals, physicians, nursing homes, diagnostic laboratories, pharmacies, medical device manufacturers and other components of the health care system.
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Health Care Economics
Health economics is a branch of economics concerned with issues related to scarcity in the allocation of health and health care. Broadly, health economists study the functioning of the health care system and the private and social causes of health-affecting behaviors such as smoking.
Often accredited with giving rise to the health economics as a discipline, it draws conceptual distinctions between health and other goals. Factors that distinguish health economics from other areas include extensive government intervention, intractable uncertainty in several dimensions, asymmetric information, and externalities. Governments tend to regulate the health care industry heavily and also tend to be the largest payer within the market. Uncertainty is intrinsic to health, both in patient outcomes and financial concerns. The knowledge gap that exists between a physician and a patient creates a situation of distinct advantage for the physician, which is called asymmetric information. Externalities arise frequently when considering health and health care, notably in the context of infectious disease. For example, making an effort to avoid catching a cold, or practicing safer sex, affects people other than the decision maker.
The scope of health economics is neatly dividing the discipline into eight distinct topics:
* What influences health? (Other than health care)
* What is health and what is its value
* The demand for health care
* The supply of health care
* Micro-economic evaluation at treatment level
* Market equilibrium
* Evaluation at whole system level; and,
* Planning, budgeting and monitoring mechanisms.
Health are Systems
A single-payer universal health care system will save money through reduced bureaucratic administration costs. 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. In almost every country with a government health care system a parallel private system is allowed to operate. This is sometimes referred to as two-tier health care. The scale, extent, and funding of these private systems is very variable.
A traditional view is that improvements in health result from advancements in medical science. The medical model of health focuses on the eradication of illness through diagnosis and effective treatment. In contrast, the social model of health places emphasis on changes that can be made in society and in people's own lifestyles to make the population healthier. It defines illness from the point of view of the individual's functioning within their society rather than by monitoring for changes in biological or physiological signs.
Health Care Politics
The politics of health care depends largely on which country one is in. Current concerns in England, for instance, revolve around the use of private finance initiatives to build hospitals or the excessive use of targets in cutting waiting lists.
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