A medical treatment (abbreviated Tx) is an intervention intended to remediate a health problem. It is usually ordered by a physician as part of a care plan following a diagnosis. Treatments may be administered orally or through a body cavity, such as an injection or a catheter. Some techniques can be used for more than one purpose, such as endoscopy, where a viewing tube (called an endoscope) is inserted into the body to make a diagnosis and take samples of tissue for analysis (biopsy).
Doctors weigh the potential risks against the possible benefits of each treatment. They use their education, experience and the results of clinical trials to make these decisions. They also consider a patient’s own values and preferences.
Sometimes a treatment has no effect at all or causes unpleasant side effects. These treatments should be avoided if possible. For example, if you have type 1 diabetes, insulin is the only way to keep your blood sugar levels in a healthy range, but it doesn’t cure the disease. Some conditions have no cure, such as Alzheimer’s disease and some forms of cancer. In those cases, doctors treat symptoms and help patients to manage the condition.
Treatments are often accompanied by other forms of health care, including counselling, physical therapy and palliative care. Many of these other types of health care have important but different functions. For example, palliative care helps patients to live their last days in comfort and dignity. Counselling and physical therapy help patients deal with the emotional and psychological distress caused by their illness.
Health professionals must balance the individual needs of each patient with the societal need to make wise use of scarce health care resources. This is known as the ‘patient-level stewardship’ obligation. This obligation shapes physicians’ decisions about which treatment strategy to choose for each patient. It is also a motivation for them to promote their patients’ well-being and to limit unnecessary harms.
The way that risks are described can affect a person’s willingness to accept them. For example, a study found that people prefer medication framed as having a lower risk of death than with a lower chance of a side effect such as bleeding. This study was replicated in a more general context and found the same result.
The findings of this study motivated technical adherence interventions, which are designed to improve medication compliance. These types of interventions typically involve simplifying the medication regimen. This has been shown to increase adherence and reduce the likelihood of people skipping doses. Previously, studies have looked for the reasons why people don’t follow their prescribed treatments. They have looked for underlying characteristics such as personality traits, and they have tried to find ways to change the patient’s behaviour. However, there is a growing recognition that this approach may not be the answer. Instead, a more comprehensive and holistic approach is needed. This includes understanding how injuries are reported and classed, to distinguish between medical treatment cases and first aid.