Time plays at least four distinct roles in economics. First, time enters most economic functional relationships either because one is considering rates of consumption (for example of drugs) or rates of inputs (for example, so many X-ray machine hours per period of time) or rates of enjoyment of particular states (for example, such and such a state of health) or because one is considering entities at a particular point in time, such as stocks of health. Second, time enters explicitly as a factor in intertemporal choice theory, concerning the optimal pattern of consumption, investment or the use of a resource over time. Third, time is used to classify 'runs' in production theory as in short run and long run. Fourth, time is itself a kind of resource having opportunity costs and it can be either efficiently or inefficiently utilized; thus the patient's time is an inherent part of many processes of healing, as it is frequently an inherent part of gaining access to health care (waiting). See Time Preference.
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