Health Care VS Healthcare – What’s the difference?

You’ve probably seen Health Care and Healthcare used interchangeably at times on the internet; while they mean different things in different places, they are easy to conflate or intermix, muddling their meanings. While there is some regional preference for the use of this term, the many searches for the correct spelling of this industry’s name indicate that more than a few people are confused.

Healthcare, no matter how you spell it, is a part of our lives where clear communication is critical. Both those providing healthcare and their patients need to emphasize thoughtful use of terminology to achieve success.

As it turns out, these terms are used inconsistently almost everywhere! Here are some distinctions we’ve been able to parse.

Definition of Healthcare and How It’s Used

This version of the term is used more in the United Kingdom, though a healthy minority of uses in UK settings are still the other variant. The definition in the Cambridge Online Dictionary is:

  • The activity or business of providing medical services.

However, it also includes aspects such as:

  • The set of services provided by a country or an organization for the treatment of the physically and the mentally ill.

As you can see, these definitions encompass both the day to day services involved, as well as the larger system or business necessary to provide these services. Healthcare, as it turns out, is terrifically broad.

Either as a misspelling, misunderstanding, or deliberate protest, United States speakers of English seem to think differently about this term than those across the pond.

Definition of Health Care and How It’s Used

Health care is used more in the United States and Canada, but as with the definition of healthcare, both are common enough to keep everyone confused. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary online introduces additional confusion, defining health care as:

  • Efforts made to maintain or restore physical, mental, or emotional well-being especially by trained and licensed professionals —usually hyphenated when used attributively.

As you can see, this definition certainly covers some of what matters to health care, but doesn’t necessarily encompass, for instance, the entire system that is referred to when people discuss “the health care industry.” It becomes clear, when you see how many people search for the answer to this question, just how this lack of clarity might make it hard to achieve consistent usage in an industry that must have clarity in order to communicate well with patients!

A Solution For Ambiguity

It’s easy, after hearing how unusual it is to find consistency in health care/healthcare references, to throw up one’s hands and decide not to differentiate. However, there is one option, which is to use the two terms to mean distinct things. According to the Arcadia blog on this subject, there might be a way out of the madness of using both healthcare, health care, and even health-care.

“Health care—two words—refers to provider actions. Healthcare—one word—is a system. We need the second in order to have the first,” says Dr. Waldman, of the blog Medical Malprocess. This distinction is more like a singular and plural distinction, in some ways. Health care are the specific things that people do: see a patient or prescribe a medication. Healthcare is an industry, the system by which people get the health care they need. With so much discussion of the healthcare industry, this seems like a good distinction to be able to make!

However, you opt to define healthcare versus health care, when you need qualified translators to assist you in medical-related industries, ISI offers comprehensive translation services, from patient care to insurance. Contact us today!