Health services are the organized efforts of professionals in the health care field to prevent and cure disease and disability. They also promote wellness and facilitate maintenance of a healthy lifestyle and access to medical care when it is needed. Various types of health services exist, and some are delivered within the confines of hospitals, clinics and physician’s offices, while others are provided in the community or at home.
The health care industry has seen a dramatic shift in recent years as large integrated health care systems have evolved. These complex organizations provide a range of health services and typically include physician’s offices, hospitals, specialized care centers such as birthing and psychiatric facilities, and even pharmacies. In many urban areas, there are now a handful of these systems that cover an entire region.
Individuals seek health services for a variety of reasons, including treatment of chronic conditions such as asthma and diabetes, routine physical examinations, screening for certain diseases such as cancer and AIDS, or to obtain information on their overall health status. Some services are available at the hospital, such as emergency rooms and outpatient procedures, while other services are delivered at home, such as vaccinations and X-rays.
Primary healthcare places a strong emphasis on preventative measures, such as encouraging individuals to eat well, exercise regularly, and avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. These changes in lifestyle often have a positive impact on the general health of the population, as has been demonstrated by research in the United States, where areas with more primary care physicians correlated with lower rates of smoking and obesity.
In the past, most health services were provided by small private practices or by a single physician who served as both clinician and administrator. This is still the case in some countries, where there are a few hundred thousand physicians, but most of the world’s population now receives most of its health care services from larger integrated healthcare systems.
Health services are also provided in a wide range of non-hospital settings, such as schools, churches, private homes and businesses, and by volunteer organizations, such as community health workers. These programs are usually targeted at high-risk populations and may focus on promoting health-related behaviors, providing education, or offering assistance with basic needs such as food and housing.
Depending on the role, health services professionals can advance their careers by returning to school for a graduate degree, earning certification and/or licensure, or taking continuing education courses. Additionally, some health services professionals can take advantage of free online courses to gain additional skills and knowledge to improve their performance in the workplace. In some cases, professional associations offer career advancement opportunities for their members. These resources are useful for both newcomers to the field and seasoned professionals looking to move up the ladder in their current organization or move into another health service industry.