In medicine, a medical treatment is an attempt to cure or mitigate the effects of illness or injury. Medical treatments are based on the diagnosis of an underlying condition, often referred to as the patient’s “medical history.” Medical treatment can include drugs, surgery and therapy. Medical treatment can also be preventive in nature, such as immunizations.
Doctors use a process known as triage to determine which patients receive priority treatment in emergency situations or in areas with limited resources, such as war zones or natural disaster zones. Triage is a method of prioritizing patients according to their severity of illness or injuries, as well as their level of cooperation. This helps physicians provide care to all patients as effectively as possible, while avoiding the over- or under-treatment of some individuals.
The treatment of an underlying medical condition may require multiple types of clinicians, including specialists, primary care physicians and nurses. This type of multidisciplinary approach to care is a common feature of health systems that emphasizes cost containment and quality improvement. Patients with complicated, expensive diseases such as cancer, heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis often require many clinicians to provide them with adequate care. A typical case may involve a visit to an orthopedic surgeon, a neurosurgeon and a neurologist, as well as visits with primary care physicians, physical therapists and other providers.
It is important for patients to be involved in the decision making process when it comes to their medical care. For example, when doctors present different treatment options, patients should consider the following questions:
How will the treatment affect my daily activities and lifestyle? Does it have any side effects? If so, what are they and how serious are they?
Patients should also consider whether or not their medical insurance covers the procedure they are considering. In general, patients should choose care providers that are part of their health insurance network, as they will usually be cheaper than those who are not. Patients should also shop around, as hospitals and doctors charge different rates for the same procedures.
In addition, it is important to think about the impact of a medical problem on a person’s life, not only on his or her health outcomes, but also on family, work and community life. For example, if a patient is not able to work due to chronic back pain, this can have a profound effect on the quality of his or her life.
If you are having a medical problem that is not life-threatening, do not wait to get care. Go to your primary care physician’s office or an ambulatory or service center if you can. If you cannot get an appointment quickly, call your doctor’s office and describe your symptoms to a nurse on the telephone advice line. Typically, these phone calls are free with your health insurance plan. In addition, some telemedicine plans have recently been introduced and offer patients the opportunity to speak with a physician directly without leaving home or work.