People use healthcare services for many reasons: to cure illnesses and health conditions, to mend breaks and tears, to prevent or delay future healthcare problems, to reduce pain and increase quality of life, and sometimes merely to obtain information about their health status and prognosis. Health care utilization can be appropriate or inappropriate, of high or low quality, expensive or inexpensive.
The study of trends in healthcare utilization provides important information on these phenomena and may spotlight areas that may warrant future in depth studies because of potential disparities in access to, or quality of, care. Trends in utilization may also be used as the basis for projecting future healthcare needs, to forecast future healthcare expenditures, or as the basis for projecting increased personnel training or supply initiatives.
Healthcare System and Recent Changes
The healthcare delivery system of today has undergone tremendous change, even over the relatively short period of the past decade. New and emerging technologies, including drugs, devices, procedures, tests, and imaging machinery, have changed patterns of care and sites where care is provided.
The growth in ambulatory surgery has been influenced by improvements in anesthesia and analgesia and by the development of noninvasive or minimally invasive techniques. Procedures that formerly required a few weeks of convalescence now require only a few days. New drugs can cure or lengthen the course of disease, although often at increased cost or increased utilization of medical practitioners needed to prescribe and monitor the effects of the medications.
Healthcare Evaluation Form Downloads[listmenu menu=Healthcare menu_class=pagenav]
Healthcare System Growth
Over the past decade, both public and private healthcare organizations have made great strides in identifying causes of disease and disability, discovering treatments and cures, and working with practitioners to educate the public about how to reduce the incidence and prevalence of major diseases and the functional limitations and discomfort they may cause. Clinical practice guidelines have been created and disseminated to influence providers to follow recommended practices. Public education campaigns urge consumers to comply with behavioral recommendations (exercise and lose weight) and treatment regimens (take your medications) that may help to prevent or control diseases and their consequences.
Healthcare utilization also has evolved as the population’s need for care has changed over time. Some factors that influence need include aging, socio-demographic population shifts, and changes in the prevalence and incidence of different diseases. As the prevalence of chronic conditions increases, for example, residential and community-based health-related services have emerged that are designed to minimize loss of function and to keep people out of institutional settings.