Managing in acute care can be complex and challenging. Perhaps the biggest test facing policymakers, clinicians and managers in modern acute care is to focus on providing just that part of the healthcare process which genuinely constitutes acute care, and to do so in an integrated way that connects effectively with primary care services and is focused on the needs of the individual patient.
This chapter first outlines the development of acute care, the issues and challenges of managing acute care provision and current developments within the acute care sector and the impact these will have for patients. It then reviews the development of acute care in three countries with very different systems for financing and providing healthcare: the United States, with its highly diverse and market-based healthcare system in which many innovations in acute care have been pioneered; the United Kingdom, with its state-financed and provided National Health Service in which acute services are rapidly changing; and the Czech Republic, which has transitioned from a state-run healthcare system to one based on the European model of social insurance, but still has a largely traditional acute care sector. The chapter concludes by exploring how the future development of acute care will shape healthcare systems and provision for patients.
Acute care usually means treatment for a short-term or episodic illness or health problem which a patient may often receive in hospital. Acute care embraces both emergency and elective or planned treatment for health problems that may arise through accident or trauma, or through the occurrence of disease. The defining characteristic of acute care has often