Health care refers to the whole range of goods and services that individuals require in order to achieve and maintain good health. It includes everything from physician offices and hospitals to pharmaceutical companies, physical therapy clinics, laboratory services and imaging centers. It also encompasses group purchasing organizations, pharmacy benefit managers, corporate healthcare systems and many other entities that play an integral role in the larger landscape of healthcare.
Across the world, countries have different systems for providing healthcare. Some have a largely private system with healthcare available only to those who can afford it, while others have a largely public system with healthcare funded by the government and available to all.
The main goal of healthcare is to ensure that all people receive adequate and appropriate medical care. This goal is achieved through a series of trade-offs, compromises and allocations of resources.
One important component of a healthy, comprehensive health system is the delivery of effective primary health care. This is care delivered by doctors who work closely with patients, making it possible to assess and treat disease early, prevent illness, and minimize the need for specialty care.
This form of healthcare is most commonly delivered by family physicians or other general practitioners, who provide both preventive and therapeutic care. They may refer patients to specialists when necessary, but they are better able to make recommendations and prescribe treatment that is most effective for their patients.
As a result, the close relationship between patients and their primary care providers is associated with improved patient outcomes. This is true for patients with chronic conditions such as heart disease and cancer. It is also true for those with acute problems such as a broken leg or a bad cold.
In addition, primary care can improve the health of non-elderly adults who are at high risk for developing diseases. For example, a study showed that American women who had regular Pap smears and mammograms were significantly less likely to die from breast cancer than other women.
Another way that primary care can help patients is to encourage patients to take charge of their own healthcare. This can include getting regular check-ups, eating well and staying active.
Moreover, a strong primary care system can reduce the need for costly hospitalizations and expensive specialty care. This is because a primary care provider can often recommend simple tests or procedures that are inexpensive and do not require the use of specialist services.
A strong primary care system can also prevent the need for surgery and other invasive treatments that are more costly, have a greater potential for harm, and take longer to perform.
As a result, the United States has some of the best survival rates for lung, colon, prostate and breast cancers, among other common diagnoses. These outcomes can be attributed to a wide range of policies, including the adoption and implementation of comprehensive preventive measures and effective treatment for chronic diseases.