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Defining healthcare

In this step, we'll establish a definition of healthcare before moving on to systems thinking in healthcare in later steps.
Healthcare, broadly speaking, is the maintenance and improvement of health through prevention, diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation of diseases and illness by health professionals and allied health professionals in primary, secondary and tertiary care, and public health.

As such, healthcare goes beyond physical, medical, clinical or hospital-based service and includes mental, community and public health.

The ‘healthcare sector’ is a term used to describe the organisations and businesses that provide the services, products, funding, workforce and education which collectively ensure the delivery of healthcare services to a population.

Examples of these organisations and business include:

  • Hospitals, clinics, health centres and general practices
  • Pharma, medical equipment, consumables, clothing and catering
  • Government, insurance companies, Non-Governmental Organisation (NGOs), charities and religious groups
  • Universities, colleges and schools

These elements of the healthcare sector are all interrelated and therefore operate as part of a system.

Complex systems

Healthcare services operate on many levels – locally, nationally and internationally – and are defined by the social structures, cultures, politics, regulation and collective identity of the country and communities in which they operate.

This adds a significant level of complexity to the healthcare system which can be difficult to understand and navigate. However, understanding how to lead and manage in a complex health system is an essential skill for health leaders around the world.

Your task

How does your prior understanding and perception of healthcare differ from what we’ve covered in this step? Are there any grey areas you would like to explore further?
Share your thoughts in the comments area.

© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0
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Understanding Systems Thinking in Healthcare

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