A brief history of Time in the era of Diagnostics, Detection & Medical treatment
When we think of the earliest medicinal treatment, images are conjured up of a dancing Witchdoctor or Shaman waving baubles over a hapless “patient!
An indeed, it would surprise medical practitioners and patients alike that from the middle ages to the 18th century, it was bedside medicinal treatment that was prevalent.
Between 1794 and 1848 came hospital medicine; and from that time forward, laboratory medicine has served as medicine’s fulcrum.
The Evolution of Diagnostics
Laboratory’s contribution to modern medical science has only recently been recognized as something more than the addition of another resource and is now being appreciated as the seat of medicine itself. Later, the microscope revealed not only the cellular structure of human tissue, but also the organisms that cause disease.
What we would consider primitive diagnostic tools and techniques—such as the thermometer for measuring temperature and the stethoscope for measuring heart rate—were in fact not in widespread use until the end of the 19th century. The clinical laboratory would not become a standard fixture of medicine until the beginning of the 20th century.
The first hospital was little than a communal outhouse set up in 17th century America and mainstream hospitals were non-existent till the 19th century!
The Fountainhead of health (due respect to Ayn Rand)
Looking back at the ages before, the fundamental platform for modern medicine can be attributed to one individual.
HIPPOCRATES (WHOSE NAME LITERALLY TRANSLATED MEANS “HORSE POWER”) was born c. 460 BCE, island of Cos, Greece—died c. 375 BCE, He was also known as Hippocrates II, was a Greek physician of the Age of Pericles, and is considered by many as the Father of medicine He was revered for his ethical standards in medical practice, mainly for the eponymous Hippocratic Oath.
His medical works from the Classical period (among the earliest prose writings in Greek) were assembled as a group and called the works of Hippocrates (Corpus Hippocraticum). Linguists and physicians subsequently wrote commentaries on them, and, as a result, all the virtues of the Classical medical works were eventually attributed to Hippocrates.
Although dealing with a highly complex science almost in the realm of “magic” his writings were simple and lacking in technical jargon and elaborate argument.
The Epidemics were amongst his first works, giving annual records of weather and associated diseases. In addition, they also provided individual case histories and records of treatment.
Diagnosis and prognosis were frequent subjects. Some of his quotable quotes on preventive curative measures were
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
“Make a habit of two things: to help(thyself); or at least to do no harm.”
Walking is man’s best medicine”
He also developed treatises that developed in to treatment such as how to set fractures and treat wounds, feed and comfort patients.
Hippocrates truly believed that diagnostics was the fountainhead of medical science with prevention being a far optimal option than cure.
The first medical diagnoses made by humans were primitive but strangely similar to what a General Practitioner would check you for if you visited him with a mild fever even today!
Sense & Sensibility (No Jane Austen like subtlety!)
Diagnoses were based on what ancient physicians could sense, using with their own eyes and ears. Prescribed medications, were usually generally purgatives to rid the body of the toxins thought to be causative agents. Post mortem analysis extended to include the gory task of dissection and examination of human specimens.
The ancient Greeks attributed all disease to disorders of bodily fluids called humors, and during the late medieval period, doctors routinely performed uroscopy. Later, the microscope revealed not only the cellular structure of human tissue, but also the organisms that cause disease. Treatises written called “Diseases” dealt with terminal illnesses, holistically providing giving symptoms, prognoses, and treatments across the body. There are works on diseases of women, childbirth, and paediatrics.
Today diagnostic medical science has travelled leaps and bounds with treatments involving Differential diagnosis, Pattern recognition (provider uses experience to recognize a pattern of clinical characteristics), the evolution of diagnostic criteria(clinical case definitions), and Clinical decision support systems(interactive computer programs designed to assist health professionals with decision-making tasks.
DIAGNOSE IN INDIA: FROM “WITCHDOCTOR” TO “WHICH DOCTOR”!
Indeed, diagnostic treatments are fast developing across the world and India is an emerging force in the same. Companies such as Thyrocare, Dr Lal Pathlabs, SRL Diagnostics and Suburban Diagnostics are laying the stage for the future evolution of the same. Other companies who are contributing to this evolving ecosystem are Anand Diagnostic Laboratory, Magnus Diagnostics and Krsnaa Diagnostics. New generation companies such as Practo, 1mg, Healthians and iHealthMantra are leading the digital revolution in the diagnostics sector.
Consumer choice is King and reigns supreme. Sophisticated tech ecosystems have made online-offline selection of the most suitable doctors/clinics/hospitals in the hands of the consumer.
But what of India’s prominent role in all of this through the ages via the likes of Charaka, Susrutha, the great Indian doctors themselves? There is even an entire religious treatise on the same (The Atharvaveda)!
This requires coverage in a whole article of its own!
Read all about our rich history in India of preventive medicinal techniques in our next blog post!
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