Health care (or healthcare) is the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease, illness, injury, and other physical and mental impairments in humans. Health care is delivered by practitioners in medicine, dentistry, nursing, pharmacy, allied health, and other care providers. It refers to the work done in providing primary care, secondary care and tertiary care, as well as in public health.
Access to health care varies across countries, groups and individuals, largely influenced by social and economic conditions as well as the health policies in place. Health care systems are organizations established to meet the health needs of target populations. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a well-functioning health care system requires a robust financing mechanism; a well-trained and adequately-paid workforce; reliable information on which to base decisions and policies; and well maintained facilities and logistics to deliver quality medicines and technologies.
Health care is conventionally regarded as an important determinant in promoting the general health and well-being of people around the world. An example of this is the worldwide eradication of smallpox in 1980—declared by the WHO as the first disease in human history to be completely eliminated by deliberate health care interventions.
While the definitions of the various types of health care vary depending on the different cultural, political, organizational and disciplinary perspectives, there appears to be some consensus that primary care constitutes the first element of a continuing health care process, that may also include the provision of secondary and tertiary levels of care.Healthcare can be defined as either public or private healthcare.
Primary care is the term for the health care services which play a role in the local community. It refers to the work of health care professionals who act as a first point of consultation for all patients within the health care system.Such a professional would usually be a primary care physician, such as a general practitioner or family physician, or a non-physician primary care provider, such as a physician assistant or nurse practitioner. Depending on the locality, health system organization, and sometimes at the
patient's discretion, they may see another health care professional first, such as a pharmacist.
Secondary care is the health care services provided by medical specialists and other health professionals who generally do not have first contact with patients, for example, cardiologists, urologists and dermatologists. It includes acute care: necessary treatment for a short period of time for a brief but serious illness, injury or other health condition,
such as in a hospital emergency department. It also includes skilled attendance during childbirth, intensive care, and medical imaging services.
The "secondary care" is sometimes used synonymously with "hospital care". However many secondary care providers do not necessarily work in hospitals, such as psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, occupational therapists or physiotherapists, and some primary care services are delivered within hospitals. Depending on the organization and policies of the national health system, patients may be required to see a primary care provider for a referral before they can access secondary care.
Tertiary care is specialized consultative health care, usually for inpatients and on referral from a primary or secondary health professional, in a facility that has personnel and facilities for advanced medical investigation and treatment, such as a tertiary referral hospital. Examples of tertiary care services are cancer management, neurosurgery, cardiac surgery, plastic surgery, treatment for severe burns, advanced neonatology services, palliative, and other complex medical and surgical interventions.Quaternary care,
The term quaternary care is also used sometimes as an extension of tertiary care in reference to medicine of advanced levels which are highly specialized and not widely accessed. Experimental medicine and some types of uncommon diagnostic or surgical procedures are considered quaternary care.