Medical treatment is care to diagnose or treat illness or injury, or to improve a person’s general well-being. It includes both non-surgical and surgical procedures. Medical treatment also can include procedures that are performed to prevent disease, such as vaccinations or screening tests. It also may include therapies that are used to restore movement and/or function for people disabled by illness or injury. Medical treatment can be provided by doctors or other health professionals, and can be either routine or urgent.
The medical profession has a responsibility to inform and educate patients about their health status and treatment options. This involves explaining the benefits and risks of each option, so the patient can make an informed decision about his or her own healthcare. It also means respecting a patient’s right to autonomy and making sure the patient feels capable of understanding the information and making decisions.
This process is called shared decision making, and is a core principle of the Hippocratic Oath that all physicians are trained to uphold. It is especially important for people who are undergoing complex treatments, such as heart surgery, cancer chemotherapy or a kidney transplant, because the consequences of these procedures can be life-altering. People who receive these services should be fully engaged in the decision-making process, and their doctor or nurse should be able to explain the options clearly, including the benefits, side effects and alternatives of each option.
Physicians often work in teams, and a patient’s primary team will be based on the main health problem identified. These specialists will interact with other disciplines (such as radiology and surgery) to help diagnose or treat additional problems that develop during hospitalization or after a discharge from the hospital. Some doctors also have sub-specialties, which focus on specific areas of medicine.
Some therapeutic procedures are used for both diagnostic and treatment purposes, such as endoscopy, where a slender tube (endoscope) is inserted into the body to view the interior, or laparotomy, in which the stomach or bladder is opened to investigate for diseases. Likewise, many surgical procedures have more than one use, such as an aortic valve replacement to replace a malfunctioning heart valve or a tracheostomy to create an opening for oxygen delivery through a breathing tube, which can treat lung diseases such as esophageal cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Preventive care is the most effective medical treatment for common health conditions and can be provided by doctors or other health professionals. It is a good idea to get regular checkups and immunizations, particularly for children. In addition, a well-balanced diet, exercise and avoidance of tobacco and excessive alcohol use are essential for healthy living.