Health Care or Healthcare?

You frequently see the word or phrase healthcare and health care but are unsure whether they are the same. Many people use them to mean the same thing but they are fundamentally different.

Health care as two words refers to what happens to a patient. Often, health care is a passive event: the provider kicks off and the patient receives. But health care should be more like the full football analogy: after the Provider team kicks off, the Patient team runs with the ball. Health care should be an interactive event: both sides do something. Passive or interactive, health care as two words refers to actions by people who work in healthcare and by patients.

Healthcare as one word refers to a system or systems to offer, provide, and deliver health care (two words). Thus, the USA has a healthcare system. In Great Britain, they call it the NHS (National Health Service). The thing that doesn’t work well for anyone; that costs too much; has frequent errors; and too few providers, that is called healthcare.

Health care – two words – refers to provider actions.
Healthcare – one word – is a system.
We need the second in order to have the first.


System MD

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33 comments ↓

#1 Universal Health Care Saves Money By… — Medical Malprocess on 10.24.09 at 8:45 pm

[...] USA, middlemen, red tape, bureaucracy and other non-value adding steps consume roughly 30% of our healthcare dollars. Simplification means eliminating the bureaucracy, which translates to downsizing insurance [...]

#2 Labels Arrest Thought. (Diagnosis Prevents Curing.) — Medical Malprocess on 10.26.09 at 7:39 pm

[...] is a particularly dangerous behavior in health care, and yet it is considered proper and necessary behavior. In health care, labeling or stereotyping [...]

#3 Healthcare Needs a Good, Old Fashioned Country Doctor, Part II of II. — Medical Malprocess on 10.30.09 at 10:39 pm

[...] health care for healthcare first requires a diagnosis of WHY. [Healthcare (one word) is a system that provides health care (two words) services to people.] The good doctor [...]

#4 Wendy on 06.17.10 at 5:52 am

Excellent explanation of the difference between health care and healthcare! Thanks!

#5 Capitalism in Healthcare–Yes or No? — Medical Malprocess on 07.02.10 at 6:00 pm

[...] As Americans, we are all guilty of imitating the ostrich. We hide our heads in the sand to avoid confronting painful, difficult questions like: Do we want to have capitalism in healthcare? [...]

#6 Sandra Thornton, RN on 09.04.10 at 4:55 pm

Thanks so much for this clear delineation between healthcare and “health care”. Although I find that I have been using these two terms correctly, I was never quite sure of myself. Ergo: I work in healthcare to provide health care for my patients.

#7 “Healthcare” vs. “Health Care”: The Definitive Word(s) | The Health Care Blog on 02.13.11 at 12:25 am

[...] definitional difference between “health care” and “healthcare,” despite what you might read elsewhere — but stylistic. As in The Associated Press [...]

#8 Medical Billing on 09.07.11 at 6:20 pm

I have pondered the same question, whether that should be health care or healthcare, many times. So often, I’ve looked at my website content and then resorted to the Edit/Find/Replace button to replace all health care with healthcare, and then had a change of heart, and reverted back to health care. Now, thanks to your definitions and explanation I finally “got it”. I realize now that using the universal Edit/Find/Replace button is just as futile as sitting and pondering whether I got every instance right, or wrong. The truth is, I have to go through each one of my pages and decide whether I meant healthcare, or health care and edit my content manually if I want it to be right. Thank you.

Danni R.
http://www.medicalbillingandcoding.net

#9 Cutting Costs Doesn’t Cut Costs on 02.20.12 at 5:15 pm

[...] These two statements: a) Are absolutely true; b) Are not common knowledge; and c) Explain much of the confusion about money in healthcare, the system, as well as health care, the service. [...]

#10 Mary on 02.27.12 at 3:27 am

Okay people, let me put it simply.

Health care (two words) is a noun.

Healthcare (one word) is an adjective.

Elementary my dears.

#11 deanewaldman on 02.27.12 at 7:14 pm

I would argue that health care (two words) is more a verb [deliver; serve] than a noun. It should be a noun, as in a relationship or partnership.

Healthcare (one word) is a noun. The noun is “mirage.” Healthcare calls itself a “system” but it ain’t. It is not systematic at all and thus, calling itself a system is wishful thinking, a fantasy or a mirage.

Neither one is what it should be. THAT is why We The Patients are hurting. Until we fix these contradictions (and we know that Washington won’t), the hurting will continue and get worse.

#12 LS on 03.24.12 at 2:23 pm

Mary (#10 above) is empirically correct. Based on observing all the uses in well-established popular media (e.g. NEJM, WSJ, JAMA, NYT, etc….), her explanation is most accurate. I am a physician, and before I spend $10s of thousands on printing / signage / website, I wanted to verify the correct way to have those words (or word, as the case may be) appear in public.

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