Public/private partnerships are currently in vogue; this issue of Hospital Quarterly contains several tributes to them. The popularity of the term has made it elastic, stretching to encompass a wide variety of arrangements. Some have the potential to be the ever-sought "win-win solutions," while others, despite superficial attractiveness, should be avoided like botulism. Assessment of the place of such partnerships thus requires the academic's favorite pastime - defining our terms. I'll restrict myself to defining three concepts - dimensions of health systems, "public" and "private," and "medical necessity" - before moving on to examine what they tell us about the role of the private sector.
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