Health Service Policy Importance & Purpose

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Healthcare and health service policies have impacts on so many different levels, and these all connect to each other. This lesson discusses the importance and purpose of different kinds of health service policies.

Why Policy Counts

As a medical provider, Sherry is deeply aware of how healthcare policies, ranging from rules and regulations to comprehensive laws, affect her well being and that of her patients. Over the course of her career, she has seen many different policies come and go, and she understands that each policy has implications for individuals' lives as well as the overall function of a society. As someone who is very invested in giving each patient the care they need to lead a quality life, Sherry is thinking about how she can make sense of the role of policy in her work.

Steps in Policy Creation

Sherry knows that when policy-makers create rules, whether within an organization or country or state, there are certain steps they should follow.


First, there is usually an assessment or evaluation, a process that allows a policymaker to determine the need for a particular policy. For instance, at Sherry's clinic they use patient surveys to determine health and hygiene habits. The results of these surveys help the providers understand what policies they might put in place regarding patient education and care.

Development and Implementation

After an assessment, policymakers develop or create a plan and then put it into action. For instance, if an assessment determined the need for a national seatbelt law, the law can be created. Then, police officers start taking responsibility for enforcing this policy.


Lastly, Sherry knows that any policy should be monitored for its ongoing efficacy. Those monitoring the policy should think about whether it is being followed faithfully and whether it is having the desired effect.


Sherry starts thinking about the different levels on which health service policy operates. First, she knows that many individuals are affected by laws and policies. At the beginning of her career, she worked with many young people who smoked cigarettes because that was what their family members did. Sherry knows that laws in her state have made it impossible for adolescents to legally purchase cigarettes.

She has noticed in her practice that substantially fewer young people smoke, and she knows that this is an example of an effective policy. Sometimes, Sherry encounters patients who complain about this policy and wish that they could buy cigarettes legally. She knows that it is rare for a policy to be pleasing to every individual, but sometimes health determinations outweigh individual desires.


Sherry's clinic also implements its own policies with regard to health care, sanitation, and privacy. For example, an assessment three years ago showed that their organization was doing some things that were not in compliance with federal guidelines for disposal of used needles. The clinic put new policies for sharps disposal into effect. These policies mandated that used needles must be immediately put in a sharps disposal container. The policy ensures that such a container is in every patient care room in the clinic and that all new employees are trained in sharps disposal. Sherry can see how this policy has increased safety, efficacy, and awareness within her organization.

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