The Health Care Industry

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The health care industry is a segment of the economic system and it provides patients with goods and services. This is a complex sector, divided into various sub-categories, and it offers patients curative, rehabilitative, preventive and palliative care. The sub-categories of health care rely on various interdisciplinary teams of professionals, but paraprofessionals as well, meaning people with management or organizational roles that aid the professionals themselves but have no licensing in the field. All this is aimed at meeting the health needs of the population.

Although medical science has developed impressively over the last 50 to 60 years, the health care industry is in an ever-growing expansion, and it forms a large part of certain countries’ economies. In order to be easily managed and budgeted, there are several areas in the industry, generally divided into hospital activities, medical and dental practice activities, and other health activities. This third category includes activities that can be performed under the supervision of trained professionals like midwives, nurses, physiotherapists, pathology clinics, diagnostic laboratories or allied health professions.

The allied health professions represent fields like optometry, yoga therapy, music therapy, chiropractics, hydrotherapy, acupuncture and other types of therapies. The health care industry can also be divided into two main sets, based on general activity and purposes. Thus, we have the health care services and equipment and biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and other life sciences.

The first group refers to companies that produce and provide health care services (i.e. hospitals, nursing homes), medical equipment and medical supplies. The second group encompasses the companies or entities that deal with producing pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and other scientific services. Furthermore, the health care industry is considered to claim one of the largest parts of the workforce, with over 9.2 million physicians in the world alone. More than that, it also has some 19 million nurses and midwives, 2.6 million pharmacists and many other employees in other related fields.

The delivery of health care has remained largely the same, with services and aid being provided face to face, either at home or in other health facilities like hospitals, nursing homes or at the workplace. However, thanks to the development of technology and the facility of communication, in absentia health care is an ever-growing practice. This means that the physician can, to some extent, offer aid and advice to his patients over the phone, with video calls, on the internet, or even through email.

An interesting aspect of modern health care industry is medical tourism, which is a service certain travel agencies offer. This means that people can travel abroad to get better medical services if their natal country isn’t as developed in a certain field; thus, medical tourism can deal even with complex procedures such as surgery (joint replacements, cosmetic surgeries, dental surgery or cardiac surgery). While this may be advantageous financially and qualitatively, since it is usually achieved through informal channels it is difficult to regulate. Thus, cases of malpractice or other legal oversights cannot be easily proved and punished, and there is also the concern with different levels and measures of accreditation between countries.

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