What is a Health System?
Health systems are large networks of hospitals and other care facilities. They manage dozens of providers and can negotiate prices for services.
They can also play a crucial role in driving quality improvement and ensuring that people get the right care at the right time. They can also protect people from financial disaster if they need expensive healthcare, preventing them from having to sell assets or mortgage their homes.
What is a health system?
A health system is the way a society organizes, finances, and delivers healthcare to its population. Its structure reflects that society’s values and priorities. The most obvious factor is the extent to which a country values healthcare and prioritizes its funding in relation to other public goods, such as food or shelter, education, or the military.
A country’s system also reflects its culture and history. Some cultures place greater emphasis on prevention, whereas others emphasize the care for or cure of specific diseases and conditions.
The level of government involvement varies, too. Some countries rely entirely on private sector providers. In other countries, the public sector provides a limited number of services, such as screening for and vaccination against infectious diseases like cholera or typhoid fever. The geographic distribution of health workers and facilities is another important feature. Some countries can only afford to deploy health professionals in large urban centers. In other countries, physicians and nurses must choose between serving the public sector and seeking private practice opportunities or emigrating to wealthier nations.
Who is a health system for?
Health systems are the backbone of healthcare in communities across the country. They are often the major employer and play a critical role in driving innovation to improve access, ensure quality and affordability, and lower total cost of care. Health system executives are active in shaping policies and setting direction for the field and association.
The healthcare model a country adopts is driven by the values, norms and expectations of that society. For instance, some countries may choose the Beveridge model where the government both provides and finances healthcare services for its citizens through tax payments.
Other countries might adopt a different healthcare model, such as the private-for-profit model in which hospitals compete against each other to attract patients and market share. This competitive environment can lead to innovative and unique healthcare models. These include population-based care, accountable care organizations, and integrated delivery networks. These healthcare initiatives seek to provide consistent and seamless experiences for patients.
What are the benefits of a health system?
Health systems, also known as integrated delivery networks (IDNs) or managed care organizations (MCOs), manage dozens of hospitals and other healthcare facilities and provide patients with access to more choices, better services, and higher quality. They act as group purchasing organizations and negotiate prices on behalf of their members, which often include private providers.
A well-performing health system ensures equitable and timely access to essential medical products, vaccines and technologies of assured quality and safety, using a sound health financing approach which includes a policy framework, advocacy, coalition building, and effective oversight and regulation. A good information system collects, analyses and disseminates relevant, reliable and timely health data and evidence for decision-making, and links the results to actions and interventions.
A study evaluating public hospitals’ performance in the six WHO building blocks of service delivery, information, health workforce, medical products/technologies, healthcare financing and leadership/governance found that they have fairly good gains. However, the hospital’s leadership/governance has a low score and requires keener attention for improvement.
What are the challenges of a health system?
Many health systems struggle with limited resources and a lack of training for healthcare workers. This can lead to a shortage of healthcare staff and poor patient care. It also leads to insufficient capacity for public health emergencies, such as disease outbreaks.
Another challenge for health systems is the high cost of healthcare services. This can be caused by a number of factors, including surprise billing, which is when providers overcharge patients for procedures. It can also be caused by the practice of upcoding, which is when providers give patients higher-priced diagnoses to increase insurance payments.
Other challenges for health systems include the lack of healthcare financing and leadership and management. Solutions to these problems include increasing budgetary allocation to healthcare and providing healthcare insurance for all. In addition, solutions can be found by focusing on improving the quality of healthcare and increasing efficiency. This can be done by reducing medical errors and limiting the amount of unnecessary tests that are performed on patients.