• Holly Hosler

Is It Healthcare or Health Care?

Updated: Mar 3, 2020

When there are two acceptable spellings of a term and you're unsure of which one to use, you've probably done something like this: Google both terms and see which one results in the most hits. In this case, that would not be a good way to settle the debate about whether you should use healthcare or health care. (As of this writing, healthcare -- at 2.02 billion hits -- would win out over health care's 750 million.)

However, both the American Medical Association and the Associated Press only recognize the term as two words. That said, given that the government and even the medical industry habitually use healthcare as a single word, there is currently a debate about whether an official change is in order. After all, we have publications with titles such as Modern Healthcare. Many communications experts believe the AMA and the AP are hopelessly out-of-date by clinging to health care as separate words.

I propose a third way: using healthcare as an adjective and health care as a noun. This usage makes sense because if one were to use the two-worded version as an adjective, e.g. "health care marketing," at times it could be unclear whether the emphasis should be on health modifying care or health care modifying marketing. With the phrase as "healthcare marketing," the emphasis is rightly placed on the noun, which is marketing. Also, my practice of calling myself a "healthcare marketing writer" (using the term as healthcare is essential for SEO) is consistent with my own style rule.

No matter where your personal preference lies in this debate, if your organization has been using healthcare to mean the services you offer and not just as the term's adjectival form, you may want to consider changing your style guide -- at least until the AMA or AP changes theirs.

Looking for a freelance writer who is knowledgeable about hospitals, health care and medicine? Email or call Holly Hosler at 443-253-3897.

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