Health is defined by the WHO as the absence of infirmity and disease while in a state of physical, social, and mental well-being. This does not come about by chance. Effective healthcare is necessary to achieve this state and to maintain it. Multiple steps have to be taken including prevention, diagnostics, and treatment. Different approaches will have to be employed depending on the exact injury, illness, or impairment.
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Various health professionals deliver vital services to the people who need them. They include doctors, nurses, pharmacists, midwives, psychologists, physical therapists, paramedics, epidemiologists, community health workers, and many more. The actual delivery will differ from place to place depending on political, cultural, and social norms. Most adhere to the following model:
This is the type of work performed by medical front liners. All patients see them first for consultation and what happens next depends on their initial assessment. Among them are general practitioners, family doctors, and physiotherapists. In some cases, patients may see nurses or pharmacists first. They meet patients of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds. Many of them are wrestling with chronic issues. They often see their primary care physician on a continuous basis. If deemed necessary, the patients may be referred to specialists.
Some situations call for a higher degree of care for a short amount of time. For example, injured persons are often rushed to the emergency room after an accident. Those who contract serious infections may also require high-level care until they heal. Critical cases will be moved to the intensive care unit. All of these are considered as secondary care. Also included under this umbrella are childcare and medical imaging services. Unless urgent, a referral from a primary care physician may be required.
This is when specialists are needed for a consultation. Patients are usually referred by their primary or secondary care physician. At this stage, highly trained professionals handle state-of-the-art medical equipment and advanced techniques to treat the patients. They are the ones who perform complex surgeries, cancer management, and special neonatal care.
Certain specialties are new or rare. These may revolve around uncommon diagnostics, experimental medicine, or complicated surgeries. A very limited number of health professionals have the skills and knowledge to handle them. Patients may be referred to these specialists if the situation calls for it.
Home and Community Care
Note that healthcare can be provided outside of clinics and hospitals. Many of these are related to public health in which medical professionals need to go out of their way to meet people where they are. For example, caregivers may go to the homes of the elderly or in assisted living facilities. Social workers might distribute condoms to prevent disease transmission. Some might oversee quarantines and disinfections. Others could support drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs.
Access to Healthcare
Ideally, every patient will have the ability to get the type of care they need in a timely manner. They should have the best possible outcome at a cost that they can afford. Some countries have achieved a high degree of access across their entire population with universal health laws. Many of their medical services are free. Others can only provide limited coverage while the rest are paid out-of-pocket. There is evidence to suggest that limiting primary care access leads to poorer health outcomes and bigger costs due to worsening conditions.
Health Care Financing
All governments have agencies that manage health programs in their countries. These are usually funded through taxes at different levels. Patients may finance their medical needs through social health insurance or private health insurance. Others could be forced to make out-of-pocket payments if the issue is not covered or the amount exceeds the limit. Low-income households may need to rely on donations to charities.
Health Care Industry
The quest to improve healthcare delivery has led to rapid technological advancements. An entire industry is focused on the development of machines that can deliver better diagnosis and treatment. Portable medical devices have gotten smaller and more energy-efficient for longer monitoring. Innovations are also underway to ensure data security, improve patient comfort, and provide greater convenience. For example, telemedicine allows patients to consult with doctors remotely. This service is critical in isolated areas. Pharmaceutical companies are also deep into research and development of cures for deadly diseases. They create vaccines to boost immunity against infectious diseases as well. Even software companies make programs to help clinics and hospitals manage their facilities.