History of Medicine – From Magic to Science to Wellbeing

In early civilisations, there was no distinction between “rational science” and magic, and so far as to sometimes involve the calling of deities. However, empirical observations of illness and the reaction to treatment eventually were systematically recorded, later following scientific methods.

In the West, it was in the early 17th Century that medicine began to separate physical and spiritual in what is now considered “Newtonian medicine”. In short, much like Newton’s Laws of Motion where reaction arose from action, the reasoning was applied to the body in that normal and abnormal functions could be explained by mechanistic changes in the body. This is a mechanistic model taking the human body as a machine.

The Doctor’s Visit, Smithsonian American Art Museum

As scientific methods and tools improved over the centuries, so too did medicine. Systematic analysis of symptoms, reactions to treatments, and understanding of the body rapidly increased. We were able to study the “machine” in much greater detail.

In the 19th century, old ideas of infectious disease epidemiology were gradually replaced by advances in bacteriology and virology. By the late 19th and early 20th century, statistical methods such as correlations and hypothesis tests were introduced making much more sophisticated analysis possible. Now, we were able to study the great variety in “machines” across populations.

Public health became more prominent and important in the 20th century especially during the 1918 flu pandemic. Managing the healthy running of society’s many “machines”.

With all the specialisation in science and medicine, it wasn’t until the mid-late 20th century that medicine began to revisit holistic care in systems theory and the concept of health as a dissipative system.

Systems theory is the multidisciplinary study of systems to investigate phenomena from a holistic approach. Dissipative systems are what’s known as open systems, that is, a system having the capability to operate outside of equilibrium or a stable steady-state, and constantly exchanging matter, energy and information from the external environment with automatic self regulation among other features. In other words, a hyper-complex “machine” interacting, and evolving with its environment.

Patient Reported Outcomes Measures (PROMS) have been shown (ref) to be effective means to bridge the traditional Newtonian medicine practiced widely today, with the systems theory and dissipative systems concepts with the aim of delivering holistic wellbeing for patients. This includes social, lifestyle and
environmental elements.

PROMS are also a key part of providing Value Based Health Care (VBHC) to populations such as groups of patients of a medical practice, employees, customers, through to state, national and worldwide populations.

eHealthier is a digital platform for managing PROMS built by medical practitioners for the healthcare sector. An effective diagnostic tool now available to physicians and public health managers to help identify, measure and track wellbeing, eHealthier simplifies patient data capture, data management and analysis, all in a secure easy to use cloud platform.

Contact eHealthier today for a discussion about improving wellbeing and a demonstration of the eHealthier platform.

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