Encompassing a myriad of resources, primary health care services refer to ways in which people receive and access care in their local communities. Rehabilitative methods assist patients during periods of recovery from illness or injury as well as in handling long-term health problems to improve or sustain quality of life. It is a general practice of many communities to offer preventative services, especially for illnesses and conditions that could be particularly devastating to individuals and families. Even though measures of prevention are in place, people do and will become ill, making it essential to have well-educated health care professionals and flexible systems of delivery that are cost-effective.
Certain primary health care services have rehabilitation as a central goal, particularly for patients who have developed a condition causing difficulties with carrying out the activities of daily living (ADL's), including bathing, grooming, and mobility. Stroke patients and individuals who have sustained athletic injuries, for example, often receive physical, speech, or occupational therapies. Some patients need to learn how to work with their conditions as complete cure and restoration of function may not be possible. Others have problems that are expected to be temporary and rehabilitation services assist with their recovery. Services are received in the home, at medical centers, and at residential care facilities.
Many primary health care services are aimed at helping people to stay healthy. Diagnostic health screenings provide early detection of disease so that treatment can begin as soon as possible, as some disease conditions require this to increase the chances of cure. Pap smears test women for cervical cancer, while the prostate-specific antigen test (PSA) screens men who are 50 years of age and older for prostate cancer. Immunizations are provided to infants and adults in order to prevent certain illnesses from developing such as diphtheria and hepatitis B.
Despite effective health screening and prevention, people do eventually get sick; sometimes the condition is chronic and lasts a long time, requiring ongoing maintenance and monitoring. Primary health care services are necessary to care for those who are experiencing illness, which are provided by doctors, nurses, and physician assistants. Emergency rooms care for people having urgent care needs who cannot get in to see their doctors, as well as those who have life-threatening problems. Responsible for dispensing prescription medications, pharmacists provide an essential primary health care service which is especially important to recovery and health maintenance.
Part of primary health care services is providing payment for treatment, rehabilitation, and screenings. Health insurance companies are services offering a means for individuals to pay reasonable fees for medical services including doctor's appointments, ambulance transport, and having prescriptions filled. Regional health care agencies ensure that underserved populations have access to medical care by providing complete healthcare coverage and share-of-cost programs. Universal healthcare insurance provides services to all citizens residing within their borders, regardless of their ability to pay.