After being in the business nearly forty years, I have come to realize I no longer (and perhaps never did) understand the meaning of the word “healthcare.”
The concept of “healthcare” is malleable; it morphs into every size, shape, application, time, and location. Healthcare can be found inside a wrecked a car along a dark desolate road and simultaneously be at home in the most lavish corporate boardroom in America. Its mere 10 letters dominate public news and the Internet while it is bantered and battered in backroom negotiations of employee benefits.
Your Healthcare is the professed focus of commercial pharmacies, the battle cry of attorneys, and the marketing motto and mission of equipment providers, researchers, mental health providers, clinics, and software companies. Every year, it is the salvation of millions and also the death knell to hundreds of thousands.
One can hardly be faulted for being unable to describe something that by its very nature defines paradox. Healthcare is both universal and very personal; it is equal parts sincere compassion and callous power. Its reach encompasses the entirety of human experience; the spectrum of pain and pleasure, miracle and tragedy, altruism and greed.
Healthcare is there in good times and bad as it sweats in gyms, educates the public, comforts babies, responds to disasters, and holds the hand of a dying elder. A single word covers so much, means so much, and does so much.
The term also lends itself to conflicting and confusing jargon. Preventative Healthcare (prevent health – really?). Wellness Health (as opposed to the Badness variety). Alternate Healthcare (what??). These titles just never passed the transparent credibility test for me.
Why have we not, despite our long-standing penchant to complicate things further, made the definition clearer, more concise, and better reflective of what we do? Why can we not label categories of patient healthcare for what it is and should be?
Life Care – to promote physical, mental, and spiritual wellness and the prevention of illness or harm.
Health Maintenance – to manage and constrain chronic illness and harm.
Health Repair – to correct acute medical or surgical episodes of illness and/or injury, recovery, and rehabilitation.
Maybe then I will have a better idea of what the larger concept of Healthcare is really all about. And maybe then we can do a better job of determining how to make it all better.
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