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Because of the current competitive environment, health care providers (hospitals, HMOs, physicians, and others) are constantly searching for better products and better means for delivering them. The health care product is often loosely defined as a service. The authors develop a more precise definition of the health care product, product line, and product mix. A bundle-of-elements concept is presented for the health care product. These conceptualizations help to address how health care providers can segment their market and position, promote, and price their products. Though the authors focus on hospitals, the concepts and procedures developed are applicable to other health care organizations.
The meaning of health has evolved over time. In keeping with the biomedical perspective, early definitions of health focused on the theme of the body's ability to function; health was seen as a state of normal function that could be disrupted from time to time by disease. An example of such a definition of health is: "a state characterized by anatomic, physiologic, and psychological integrity; ability to perform personally valued family, work, and community roles; ability to deal with physical, biological, psychological, and social stress". Then in 1948, in a radical departure from previous definitions, the World Health Organization (WHO) proposed a definition that aimed higher: linking health to well-being, in terms of "physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity". Although this definition was welcomed by some as being innovative, it was also criticized as being vague, excessively broad and was not construed as measurable. For a long time, it was set aside as an impractical ideal and most discussions of health returned to the practicality of the biomedical model.