A hospital is a medical institution built and staffed for the diagnosis of disease, and for the treatment of sick and injured people. It is also a centre for research and teaching. A hospital provides a wide range of services to patients including accident and emergency, medical (non-surgical) wards, operating theatres, intensive care units, laboratories and psychiatric rehabilitation care. Its facilities include inpatient beds and outpatient clinics, diagnostic imaging, and a variety of support departments.
In the past, hospitals were often founded by religious orders or charitable institutions. Today, most hospitals are owned and operated by government agencies or private business organizations. Governments throughout the world are concerned about the quality and cost of the healthcare available in their countries and are seeking to develop more efficient and affordable systems of medicine and healing.
Most hospitals are specialized in specific types of health conditions, treatments or surgeries, and some have even been designated as trauma centers. They may also be devoted to a particular group of people such as children, the elderly or the mentally ill. This is because specialized hospitals can offer more focused care and more effective results at lower costs than general hospitals.
The word ‘hospital’ comes from the Latin hospes meaning ‘host or guest’ and was originally used to describe an almshouse for the poor, hostel for pilgrims or an inn for travellers. In medieval times, hospitals were also places where the sick or wounded could be accommodated free of charge, or for a small fee. Some of the first hospitals were built as a place for education and training in the medical professions.
Hospitals are generally considered to be a vital part of any healthcare system. They are a setting where medical students and nurses learn their skills, and where new treatments and procedures can be tested. Some hospitals are internationally renowned for their research in specific areas of medicine.
Many people spend weeks, months or longer in a hospital receiving treatment for a serious illness or injury. This can cause a person to miss school or work and to be interrupted in their personal life and social relationships. It can be very difficult for teenagers to cope with this situation, especially if they have to stay in the hospital away from their friends and extracurricular activities.
In most countries, hospital construction and operational costs are largely funded by government contributions from tax dollars. In some cases, however, hospitals are privately funded through donations or endowments from foundations, private individuals or groups. Many hospitals also collect charges from insurance companies for the care of their insured patients. The operation and maintenance of a hospital requires substantial investment in facilities, equipment and a highly skilled staff. As a result, hospitals are becoming increasingly expensive to operate. This is exacerbated by the fact that modern technology has created a multitude of different treatments and therapies, each requiring more complex diagnostic capabilities and a greater commitment to specialized staff.