Health care is a broad field of endeavor that focuses on improving a person’s health and well-being. It involves prevention, diagnosis, treatment, amelioration, and cure. It is delivered by health professionals and allied health fields. Health care professionals are trained to deliver quality, efficient, and cost-effective care to individuals, groups, and communities.
Health care professionals once enjoyed considerable autonomy, and the sociological literature on professions often used the physician as an example of a “full-fledged professional.” The physician was viewed as a person with an altruistic service orientation who always acted in the best interests of his or her clients. In contrast, the businessperson’s motto was caveat emptor. These two differences engender conflict in the health care industry.
The healthcare ecosystem is a complex network of different industries and businesses that provide different types of care. The patient is an essential element of the health ecosystem, and each patient has different needs and wants. Increasing competition among health care providers would improve quality and efficiency and reduce cost. By creating a free market, patients would be able to choose the best possible care for their needs, while simultaneously becoming smart consumers.
In addition to the medical profession, health care also encompasses community rehabilitation services. These services help people regain mobility and independence after having lost limbs or function. Such services include orthotics, wheelchairs, and prosthetics. As a whole, health care is an industry with a vast range of related sectors and a broad framework that involves financing and inter-sectoral action.
Governments influence the health care industry by regulating public policies. Health care costs increased from less than 6% of the GDP in 1960 to 15% by 1997. The rise of health care costs made health care reform a serious concern for government leaders. The Clinton administration attempted to reform health care through public policy, but failed to pass any major reforms. The private sector responded by pushing competition and managed care.
A growing number of Americans are experiencing difficulty affording the cost of health care. They are delaying or not receiving the health care they need, due to the expense of treatment. A recent study indicates that about a quarter of adults have missed or cut their prescriptions because they couldn’t afford them. Many have also skipped doses of medications and cut pills in half. Health care costs disproportionately affect low-income adults and the uninsured.
Another type of health care system is the “mixed model”. This model involves the use of private and public health care providers to fund health care. Public health care costs are lower in this model, because it is largely funded by taxes. Governments also have control over healthcare providers and health insurance costs. However, mixed systems often have high costs per capita and a lack of accessibility.
Governments have made several efforts to combat high health care and prescription drug prices. These efforts have included banning “gag clauses” in pharmacy contracts, a practice that prevent pharmacists from informing customers about cheaper cash prices. Furthermore, hospitals must now post their charges on the Internet and update the list annually.