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What is the difference between health care and healthcare?

Posted by Julian Arnold

While they mean various things in different locations, you’ve certainly heard Health Care and Healthcare used interchangeably on the internet; while they signify different things in different places, it’s simple to confuse or intermix their meanings. While there is a regional preference for this phrase, the numerous searches for the right spelling of this industry’s name suggest that many people are perplexed.

Healthcare, no matter how it’s spelled, is an aspect of our lives in which good communication is essential. To be successful, both those delivering healthcare and their patients must emphasize the careful use of words.

As it turns out, these phrases are virtually universally misunderstood! Here are some of the distinctions we’ve discovered.

What Is Healthcare and How Is It Used?

This variety of the phrase is more often used in the United Kingdom, however the other variant is still used in a substantial minority of UK settings. The Cambridge Online Dictionary gives the following definition:

  • Medical service provision is an activity or enterprise such as healthcare logistics companies.
  • However, it also encompasses issues such as: a country’s or organization’s collection of services for the care of the physically and psychologically sick.
    As you can see, these definitions cover both the day-to-day services and the bigger system or company that allows these services to be provided. As it turns out, healthcare is quite diverse.

United States English people appear to believe differently about this phrase than those across the pond, whether it’s due to a mistake, misunderstanding, or purposeful protest.

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What Is Health Care and How Is It Used?

Health care is more often used in the United States and Canada, although both terms, like the concept of healthcare, are widely used enough to cause confusion. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, which is available online, adds to the confusion by describing health care as:

  • Efforts done by skilled and certified experts to preserve or restore physical, mental, or emotional well-being —usually hyphenated when used attributively.

As you can see, this definition encompasses certain aspects of health care, but not all, such as the full system that is referred to when people talk about “the health care business.” When you consider how many individuals look for the answer to this question, it’s easy to see how this lack of clarity might make it difficult to maintain consistent usage in an industry that relies on clarity to communicate effectively with patients!

 

An Answer to Ambiguity

It’s easy to throw up one’s hands and decide not to discriminate after hearing how difficult it is to discover consistency in health care/healthcare references. There is, however, one option: use the two names to imply different things. There may be a way out of the lunacy of utilizing healthcare, health care, and even health-care, according to the Arcadia blog on the issue.

“Health care” is a two-word phrase that refers to the acts of providers. In a single word, healthcare is a system. “In order to have the first, we require the second,” writes Dr. Waldman of the blog Medical Malprocess. In some respects, this distinction is similar to the singular and plural distinction. The precise actions that people do in health care are things like seeing a patient or prescribing medication. Healthcare is both a business and a system for providing individuals with the health care they require. This seems like a useful difference to be able to make, especially with so much debate of the healthcare business!

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