Health care is a vast, complex, highly diverse ecosystem of businesses, interests, services, products and devices that take a patient through each step of their health journey. In the past decade, we have seen an explosion of innovation that has allowed the industry to provide better, cheaper and more personalised health services to patients. But, in many ways, we are still at the beginning of our journey and there is a lot to do to improve the health outcomes of people in every corner of the world.
In the broadest sense, health care refers to all activities undertaken to maintain or restore human health. This includes the diagnosis and treatment of disease, injury, and other physical or mental impairments. It also encompasses preventive measures, such as vaccines and lifestyle interventions, to keep individuals healthy. Health care is a global endeavour that crosses sectors and involves the involvement of multiple professionals, including physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, social workers, nutritionists and pharmacists.
One of the most difficult issues is how to allocate resources. For example, some people believe that healthcare is like any other consumer product or service that some can afford and others cannot, while others think that healthcare is a fundamental right that the government has a moral obligation to deliver to all citizens in a fair and equitable way.
These different perspectives on allocation often lead to conflicting views about how best to organize the system. For example, libertarians generally favor a free market in healthcare and want to see governments stay out of the business of providing it as much as possible. This view is based on the belief that individual rights and freedoms trump collective needs and desires.
The reality, however, is that in almost every country it is necessary to have some form of public financing and organization. Without it, the cost of providing healthcare would rise beyond the reach of most societies. In addition, there is a strong correlation between the amount of money spent on healthcare and life expectancy in the developed world: every additional $1000 spent on healthcare reduces life expectancy by about 0.4 years.
To be sustainable, a universal health coverage model must strike a balance between these competing goals. Ideally, it should be funded by a combination of general taxation and private health insurance. This ensures that everyone has access to the basic healthcare they need and helps avoid financial hardship if they are ill. It should also encourage innovation in the medical sector, including research and development of new drugs and treatments.
Regardless of the exact model, one thing is clear: the current situation is unsustainable. In order to achieve the health outcomes we all desire, the health care landscape must be radically transformed. To do this, five crucial priorities must be put in place: