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Medical Practice

Assessing Treatment

Objective standards are usually used in judging the effectiveness of treatment. The patient measures the outcome in terms of relief of pain and preservation of or regaining lost function. Although subjective, a patient's state of health can be divided into a number of components: bodily comfort; physical, social, professional, and personal activities; sexual and cognitive functions; sleep; overall view of one's health; and general sense of well-being. Relative to these components, the patients' views of their disabilities can be obtained by verbal exchanges. Proper medical practice requires the consideration of both the objective and subjective aspects of treatment outcome.

Drug Therapy

New drugs are introduced every year. While it is hoped that they are significantly better than their predecessors, many have only a marginal advantage. With this in mind, a cautious approach should be used in dealing with a new medication, unless it is established with certainty to be a real advance. Otherwise, it is preferable to continue to use established drugs whose benefits and side-effects are known to the treating physician.

Over the next few decades, the practice of medicine will be greatly influenced by the health care needs of the elderly. It is estimated that the number of individuals over 65 will triple in the next 30 years. For this reason it is important for the physician to be familiar with the different responses of the elderly patient to disease. The physician must also be knowledgeable about common disorders that occur with aging and altered response of the elderly patient to medication.

Iatrogenic Disorders

These disorders refer to those generated by a testing or treatment modality and are not connected to the existing medical condition.

The judicious use of powerful medical tools requires that the physician consider their action, potential dangers, and costs. Every medical procedure carries certain risks; however, to benefit from the advances of modern medicine, reasonable risks need to be taken. Reasonable means considering both positive and negative aspects of a procedure and determining what is more desirable under the circumstances. Special attention must be given to the use of medications, which in some instances can generate more harm than good.

The physician's use of language and behavior can at times lead to needless anxiety if the patient is given a misleading impression of his or her condition. Being involved with treating the disease should not shift the physician's concern from the overall well-being and economic welfare of the patient.

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