The History of the Medical Diagnosis

By Phin Upham

When you’re not feeling well, you go to the doctor who reviews your condition and provides some ideas on what he or she thinks might be wrong with you. In most cases, the diagnosis seems very simple because of mountains of clinical evidence doctors are aware of that describe certain ailments, but the process of diagnosis is no less important today than it was when it was first used in ancient Egypt.

Physicians in 2630 B.C. began applying logic and reason to how disease was treated. This ranged from how wounds were mended, to what was done about the common cold. This tradition was further influenced by the practices of Chinese doctors, who described four methods to diagnose a patient: inspection, auscultation-olfaction, interrogation, and palpitation.

It’s said that the father of Western Medicine, Hippocrates, tasted the urine of his patients and smelled their sweat in order to make a diagnosis. Today, we test urine in a lab.

The actual diagnosis that’s done before your eyes is a highly cognitive process, relying on continued study on the part of your physician. Good doctors never stop learning and reading more about their chosen profession, which includes new ideas on how to diagnose. The process is constantly evolving with no right or wrong method. In fact, you’ve probably noticed some doctors don’t always get it right the first time. That’s thanks to the similarity of symptoms from one disease to the next.

The most important concept in medical diagnosis is the patient, who is first to identify a problem and potentially seek out a solution for it. Without that crucial first step, all the diagnosis in the world would be of no use. See your doctor when you’re feeling ill and take part in a tradition as old as developed civilization.

About the Author: Phin Upham is an investor at a family office/ hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media and Telecom group. You may contact Phin on his Phin Upham website or LinkedIn page.