I should be frank with you—there is nothing really "basic" about health care, much like the various health ailments that may afflict us throughout our lives. But since health care administration and delivery is a "mature" field of study, meaning that we've studied and managed it long enough to understand what is (mostly) working well, we can make some generalizations about how this system is designed, hopefully making it easier to understand for those who've never studied it before. And that's the conversation we'll begin today with this post.
A health care system—implying a collection of different "parts" working together—is ultimately organized to provide direct care when people have a health issue that needs to be addressed. Since health issues and what causes them are highly variable, the health care system needs to be sophisticated enough to identify, prevent and treat the underlying issues that cause illness. This means that a whole suite of health services need to be offered that address a number of human dimensions, including age, specific body part, inherited (genetic) and acquired conditions and environmental risks, among others. Parts of the health system are obvious to patients—like visiting or being admitted to a hospital, doctor's office or a long-term care facility and seeing the doctors, nurses, and therapists who work there, and parts that are not, like health care administration, health legislation and policy making, employment and contract negotiations with unions and associations, registration with professional colleges, technology and practice changes and partnerships with training programs and universities, just to name a few.
In the next few posts, I’ll highlight specific parts of the health system that I think are important, including: policy, training, people, facilities and technology. But to give simple context to these parts in this post, we know that there should be rules that help guide the health system (policy), that people need to be trained and certified to give care within the system (training), that there are many different kinds of professions in the system (people), different physical spaces designed for the care of patients and their respective health needs (facilities) and different kinds of technology that are developed and supplied that makes health care safer and more effective (technology). In the next post, we’ll dive into health policy.