Health care is a broad field that encompasses a wide range of activities aimed at promoting health. These activities include prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and cure. Health care is delivered by medical and allied health professionals. The main goals of health care are to promote wellness and prevent illness. Allied health professionals, such as nurses, doctors, and social workers, are essential to the delivery of health care.
The health care system is regulated by both the administrative and judicial branches of government. The judicial branch determines whether hospitals or groups of health care providers are engaged in anticompetitive behavior. The administrative branch develops rules and regulations and oversees the implementation of various health care programs. The private sector is expected to work within these rules and regulations and is a major influence on public policies.
The structure of health care is also shaped by social values and expectations. In many countries, gender has a strong influence on work roles. Before the Second World War, doctors and nurses occupied the major roles in hospitals. Women generally held lower social status and were not required to have extensive education. After the war, health care systems began focusing on acute care and became more technologically advanced.
Government health insurance programs offer some benefits to low-income individuals. For example, Medicaid and CHIP generally have no copays for low-income children, and in some states, there are no copays at all. Individuals can also purchase private health insurance. Medicaid also provides comprehensive coverage for medical care, including inpatient and outpatient hospital services, laboratory and diagnostic services, family planning, and freestanding birth centers. Furthermore, Medicaid provides transportation to medical appointments.
Health care researchers documented major variations in care delivery, and determined that a large proportion of medical variations is due to inappropriate care, which is either given when it is not necessary, or incorrectly. The amount of inappropriate care appears to be around 20 to 25% of therapeutic and diagnostic procedures. This is a significant problem that can affect the quality of health care provided.
The federal government has prioritized the creation of a national health equity program to reduce health care disparities. The Office of Minority Health, for instance, aims to improve health equity for people of color and underserved populations. In addition, it aims to improve the utilization of community health workers and enhance the cultural competency of healthcare providers.
Physicians have a great deal of political power in the health care system, which has led to changes in payment and reimbursement policies. The federal Medicare payment system uses the CPT classification system, developed by the American Medical Association. This CPT system has created conflict between professional ideology and the expectations for profit. It also has led to the creation of multiple specialties and expanded health care reimbursement.
Healthcare is organized into sectors. Depending on the type of care, it may be classified as primary care, secondary care, home care, or community care. Some sectors are primarily focused on providing health care to the disabled, elderly, and mentally ill.