Between the years 1750 and 2000, healthcare in the United States evolved from a simple system of home remedies and itinerant doctors with little training to a complex, scientific, technological, and bureaucratic system often called the "medical industrial complex." The complex is built on medical science and technology and the authority of medical professionals. The evolution of this complex includes the acceptance of the "germ theory" as the cause of disease, professionalization of doctors, technological advancements in treating disease, the rise of great institutions of medical training and healing, and the advent of medical insurance. Governmental institutions, controls, health care programs, drug regulations, and medical insurance also evolved during this period. Most recently, the healthcare system has seen the growth of corporations whose business is making a profit from healthcare.
Physicians with medical degrees and scientific training began showing up on the American landscape in the late colonial period. The University of Pennsylvania opened the first medical college in 1765 and the Massachusetts Medical Society (publishers of today's New England Journal of Medicine), incorporated in 1781, sought to license physicians. Medical schools were often opened by physicians who wanted to improve American medicine and raise the medical profession to the high status it enjoyed in Europe and in England. With scientific training, doctors became more authoritative and practiced medicine as small entrepreneurs, charging a fee for their services.
In the early 1800s, both in Europe and in the United States, physicians with formal medical training began to stress the idea that germs and social conditions might cause and spread disease, especially in cities. Many municipalities created "dispensaries" that dispensed medicines to the poor and offered free physician services. Epidemics of cholera, diphtheria, tuberculosis, and yellow fever, and...
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