When thinking of a definition of healthcare, one immediately associates it with medical and nursing care. But this is only one definition. The definition of healthcare as we know it today, includes other disciplines like diagnostics and preventive care, medicines and treatments, and rehabilitation. It is also the field that forms the base for much research work in the medical field. The work done in this area has been responsible for discovering many of today’s modern medicines and treatments.
So, if we want to get a clear understanding of what all this means, then we need to define the field further. After this, we come upon two main types of hospitals namely public and private. Private hospitals are those that are solely the property of a single person or corporation. They cater to patients coming from outside the locality. Whereas public hospitals are those which are generally managed by a board of physicians and other members of a governing board and are open to all who require access to the services.
Another branch of health care delivery is that of health management. This entails the prevention and treatment of diseases along with providing medical assistance when diseases have already manifested themselves. Prevention of disease is done through education, monitoring, and promoting regular exercise and good diets among the general population. Treatment involves the use of drugs and medical procedures when diseases have been diagnosed.
Medical research is the other major area of health care delivery. This has been around since the ancient Greek and Roman times. In the ancient world, diseases were rare and therefore were treated with the most basic methods and most often with the help of herbal medicines. However, over time, with the advancement of technology, the field of medicine has developed considerably and has started treating different types of diseases with more sophisticated methods.
With the advancement of modern medicine and medical science in the middle of the Twentieth Century, there was an increased interest in health care delivery. Various social, economic, and technological factors led to greater demand for health services. Many public and private organizations became involved in health research and began conducting research and studies on health. After World War II, with the focus on health promotion and disease control, there was a rise in the number of practitioners engaged in health care delivery.
The field of medicine has various sections and sub-sectors. Primary Health Care is that aspect of healthcare that deals with providing the primary healthcare to the individual. It includes care giving practices such as diagnosis, consultation, and treatment; maintenance of appropriate standards of hygiene; maintenance of physical and mental health; and preventive health care. Health Maintenance is the additional element of primary health care that aims at preventing diseases before they occur. A clear example of this is preventive care, which involves regular screening and examination for signs and symptoms of potential diseases.
The other major segment of health care is that of Special Health Care. This includes care giving intended to avert diseases or prolong life expectancy of individuals. These include care for patients who suffer from terminal, life-threatening diseases such as cancer and AIDS; immunizations; care for pregnant women during pregnancy; care for children; and management of emergencies. There are also health care systems such as hospice that focus on giving the patient a compassionate and comprehensive service in the last stage of life.
The above discussion has been a basic introduction to the topic of what defines healthcare. It attempts to define what the discipline of healthcare actually is. While it may not be completely relevant to the question ‘what does healthcare mean?’ to define the field as a whole, the above discussion provides a simple framework upon which healthcare professionals and the general public can better understand the discipline.