What Is a Healthcare System?

A healthcare system is a set of organisations and resources that provide health services. It includes hospitals, physician practices and other facilities. A healthcare system may also include a range of social care measures to improve patient wellbeing.

A broad range of competing ideas and interests determine the design, structure, performance and evolution of healthcare systems. These include differing ideologies about the role and responsibility of governments in guaranteeing access to healthcare for all.


Providing high quality healthcare is an important element of a healthy society. It helps people stay healthy, prevents disease, and reduces waste and inefficiency. As a result, improving healthcare quality is increasingly becoming a priority for governments and healthcare providers. However, achieving this goal requires a comprehensive approach that involves all stakeholders. The Legatum Institute’s Prosperity Index includes a healthcare sub-index that ranks countries by their performance in this area.

To measure and improve health system performance, countries need access to reliable, timely and actionable data. These data can help them identify and address barriers to high-quality care and develop strategies for overcoming them. This is why it’s so important to have standardized metrics that can be used by different organizations and individuals. The best measurement tools are valid and comprehensible. They should also be based on the best available scientific evidence and allow for comparisons across groups. In addition, they should be adjusted for patient characteristics to avoid overestimating or underestimating a healthcare provider’s performance.


Access is the ability to identify healthcare needs and to search for, reach or obtain services. This can be influenced by factors such as the availability, affordability and quality of health care services. It also includes the time required to get to care (i.e. the delay between desire for and actual search for care). Various approaches to measuring access have been proposed, including geographical accessibility, service readiness, financial affordability, social acceptability, and utilisation. Some scholars, such as Penchansky, have proposed an analytical framework that focuses on the interface between characteristics of those who supply and those who use health care resources and services. This framework has the potential to enhance empirical studies of access. It can also be used to inform policy development. For example, strategies to improve geographic accessibility can include establishing community health centres.


Novant Health, for example, recently raised its minimum wage in North Carolina to $17 per hour, more than the state’s minimum wage. This and other staff salary increases are meant to help boost health equity, which is an important part of the overall healthcare system. As a foundation for universal health coverage (UHC), WHO recommends reorienting systems towards primary health care (PHC): the majority of essential UHC interventions can be delivered through PHC. This helps to address social determinants of health and improve efficiencies.

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