Types of Healthcare

When a person is ill, they turn to the health care system for the medical services that they need. To provide the best quality of care, health care is organized into different types or levels. Medical professionals at each level are prepared in terms of skill, licensing, and equipment to deliver the required expertise for that level of health services. This is crucial because some individuals may only require minor medical assistance but others may need more specialized or intensive care. Health care can be broken down into primary care, secondary care, tertiary care, and quaternary care, as well as home or community care.

Primary Care

Primary care is the first and most frequent point of contact for many in need of health care services. For individuals who are in good health, this may be the only medical care that they receive. It provides a general level of care such as routine checkups and exams. The doctor that one sees for these visits is usually their dedicated primary care doctor. A person may also go to primary care if they have a cold, need their blood pressure checked, or have a health question or a concern such as a sore or a rash.

Secondary Care

When a primary care provider is no longer able to effectively help the patient, they may send them to receive more advanced care from a specialist. When the patient sees this specialist, they have entered a secondary care situation. Secondary care physicians do not see patients on a general basis, nor do they treat them for routine care. They are typically cardiologists, urologists, dermatologists, or physicians in some other field that focuses on the treatment of a specific disease, function, or system in the body. In most cases, insurance providers require a referral from primary care before they will pay for a patient to see a specialist in secondary care.

Tertiary and Quaternary Care

There are times when a person requires expertise and equipment that is highly advanced and beyond what a secondary care physician can offer. This usually happens when a patient has been hospitalized. The type of advanced and complex care that one needs while in tertiary care includes major surgeries such as open heart surgery, arterial bypass surgery, organ transplants, hemodialysis, or neurosurgery. Burn and cancer treatments, the fitting of prosthetics, and even certain types of plastic surgery are also a part of tertiary care. A person may also advance to this type of care if secondary care encounters a condition that they are unfamiliar with. In these cases, the tertiary care doctor may need to conduct investigative research.

Medical care that is considered experimental or unusual falls under quaternary care. This is a more advanced form of care that requires an even higher degree of expertise. Some travel may be required for patients who receive this type of care, depending on the specific medical problem and the hospital that they have been receiving care at. Because the medications, equipment, and procedures are generally experimental, hospitals and treatment centers may be equipped for only certain medical conditions or may not have the facilities to offer quaternary care at all.

Home and Community Care

When a person who is elderly or disabled prefers to stay at home as opposed to moving into an assisted-living facility, they need a type of care called home or community care. People who receive this type of care require additional services to help them safely make it through their days. This involves home care agencies who send people to assist with chores such as cleaning the home and preparing meals. Other assistance may be necessary to help the individual with their hygiene and grooming needs, which may include anything from bathing and dressing assistance to grooming their hair. These type of supportive care providers generally do not assist the individual with their medical needs. If medical services are required, they will need the help of a home health care provider. Home health care providers are licensed medical professionals who can help with medical needs such as administering medications. The level of care needed depends on the person's health and general physical and mental capabilities.