Medical Treatment

Medical treatment is the care provided by physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and others to patients with illnesses or injuries. It encompasses diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. Modern medical treatment is often provided in health care settings and includes services of many highly trained professionals besides doctors, such as nurses, emergency medical technicians and paramedics, laboratory scientists, pharmacists, dietitians, speech therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists and radiographers. Depending on the particular health condition, medical treatment may also involve specialists.

The history of medicine, medical science and the practice of treating disease dates back to antiquity. Hippocrates, considered the father of modern medicine, set forth principles that are still relevant today, including his Hippocratic Oath for physicians. He and his colleagues developed medical theory and classification systems, including those for acute, chronic, endemic and epidemic diseases, along with a logical approach to the study of symptoms and their relationship to illness.

Generally, the physician is the first port-of-call for most patients with non-emergency health problems. This is known as primary care, family medicine or general practice in some countries. Other common specialties include cardiology (dealing with heart disease), gynecology and obstetrics (often abbreviated as OB/GYN in American English or ob/gyn in British English) which focus on the female reproductive organs and their related diseases, and neurology which is concerned with disorders of the nervous system.

When outcomes are used as the criteria for judging the quality of medical care, several limitations must be reckoned with. In addition to the difficulty of holding other significant factors constant, it is frequently the case that long periods of time, sometimes decades, must elapse before relevant outcomes become manifest. Moreover, it is possible that different observers will employ, or interpret predetermined standards and ratings differently. For example, the authors of a recent study found that one of their assessors regularly awarded lower ratings than another.

Despite these difficulties, outcomes are used in most evaluations of medical care. This is partly because they provide a relatively objective measure of the effectiveness and efficiency of care, and are less subject to the biases involved in sampling and rating. However, the fact that outcomes are subject to these limitations indicates that they must be used with great caution.

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