A general hospital is a health care facility that offers both inpatient and outpatient services. These facilities are typically open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to provide around-the-clock emergency and medically necessary treatment for people with serious illnesses or injuries. Some facilities also offer wellness services, which are designed to help people stay healthy. Others specialize in certain types of treatments, such as heart disease or cancer. In addition, some hospitals are designated as teaching institutions and are affiliated with undergraduate or postgraduate education in the health professions. These hospitals may provide more advanced diagnostic procedures and treatment techniques, such as surgical techniques or equipment, or may be involved in the training of health professionals.
Unlike many specialty hospitals, general hospitals are usually not staffed with specialists in a particular field. This allows them to be a convenient source of comprehensive health care for patients in the local community, especially those who do not have access to specialist facilities or are in need of more affordable or accessible treatment. General hospitals are often found in suburban and rural areas, where they may be the only health care resource for thousands of people who are not served by local primary health care providers.
The history of the modern general hospital began in the 20th century, with the introduction of new and more effective antibiotics and surgical procedures. As the use of these new technologies expanded, so did the number of patients served by general hospitals. Many of these new patients were suffering from conditions that previously were not treatable in the community, such as AIDS and other infectious diseases.
As the population of the United States continued to grow, and as public and private insurance programs increased coverage for health care, general hospitals became a more important health care facility. General hospitals began to expand their ambulatory (outpatient) services, and many developed dedicated departments for psychiatry. In addition, many hospitals were designated as teaching facilities, and their staffs became more involved in the training of new health professionals. This increased activity led to the development of more specialized and interdisciplinary treatment services in many hospitals, including consulting-liaison psychiatry, which offers brief consultations, biopsychosocial evaluations, and psychopharmacological management for ill patients.
In the United States, a general hospital is an institution as defined in Section 32.1 of the Code of Virginia that maintains permanent facilities to house inpatients and provides diagnosis and treatment for patients with a wide range of diseases and injuries. A general hospital must have an organized medical staff and be maintained with the intention of providing general hospital care
During its nearly half-century run, the daytime soap opera General Hospital has garnered a devoted following. The show has been praised for raising awareness of numerous issues, such as sexual responsibility; the prevalence of HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases; tolerance and understanding for gay, lesbian and bisexual people; accurate portrayals of smoking, drug and alcohol abuse, breast cancer, and sexual child abuse; and organ donation.