A medical treatment, sometimes called a therapy, is an attempt to remediate a health problem following a diagnosis. All treatments have benefits, risks and side effects. Patients should understand these and be involved in making decisions about their care.
There are many types of medical treatment, including diagnostic procedures that help doctors make diagnoses and measures the severity of a disease or injury. These include blood tests, X-rays, and ultrasound scans. There are also preventative measures, such as vaccinations and screening tests that can help identify diseases and conditions before they become serious.
Some procedures are not considered to be medical treatments in and of themselves, even if they may result in a positive impact on the health of a patient. For example, a vaccination such as tetanus or flu shots is preventative and does not involve any physical treatment. Similarly, the application of first aid, such as cleaning or flushing a wound, soaking it, applying cold compresses and nonprescription medications like ointments and salves, and follow-up visits restricted to observation do not constitute a medical treatment.
Other types of medical treatments, commonly referred to as paracuratives, are those that do not result in direct gains in health, but serve other valued outcomes such as social support or the alleviation of suffering. Examples of paracuratives include the provision of food and water, home health care services, hospice and palliative care, and community and family services.
A key aspect of a health care system is ensuring that patients and their families are informed about the consequences of different treatment options, so that they can make good choices and participate in decision-making. This requires overcoming barriers that may prevent patients and their surrogates from understanding the consequences of various treatments, such as compression bias (the tendency to overestimate small risks and underestimate large ones), miscalibration bias, availability bias and optimism-pessimism bias.
Another essential aspect of a health care system is that it provides the right amount and type of treatment. This means that the system must have a clear definition of what is “reasonably required” for treating work-related injuries or illnesses, and that it must comply with treatment guidelines, known as Medical Treatment Utilization Schedules, in order to be reimbursed by workers’ compensation insurance.
Medical treatment includes not only conventional medicine, but also non-conventional approaches to healing, such as acupuncture and balneotherapy. There are also many ways to address a condition, such as dietary changes, the use of herbal supplements, massage and meditation.
Medical treatment also includes a number of non-invasive diagnostic methods, such as examining blood pressure, taking temperature and blood samples. Finally, there are some cosmetic procedures, such as a facelift or eye surgery, that can improve the appearance of a patient’s skin. All medical treatment, however, has its downsides, and patients should discuss the pros and cons of all available options with their doctor or other health care providers. A physician’s office can also serve as a source of information about local medical facilities and their quality and costs.