I’ve been writing this blog for just about a year now. Though we’ve been required to make a number of detours, exploring some matters in greater depth, it all began with my desire to unpack the meaning that can be derived from the standard SOAP formula. It has taken us this long to go through the first two letters: subjective and objective. Today, I’ll begin discussion of the third aspect of that formula, the assessment.

Assessment is crucial: it determines the Plan. This is the place and time we evaluate and make sense of the entire symptomatology.

Our method(s) of evaluating will determine our action plan: understanding this phase is vital. Diagnosis is a significant part of our medical training. Depending on the tradition, it involves using the criteria in the Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy in “Western” conventional medicine. In “Eastern” alternative systems, such as Traditional Chinese Medicine (“TCM”), one may look at the pulse and tongue to gain clues to a condition. Homeopathic assessments assess functional, muscular and skeletal systems, and nutritional and lifestyle components.

As a naturopathic doctor, many people are referred to me by their general practitioner or specialist. Often individuals come on their own accord, having received an “assessment” from numerous other health care providers. My practice has uniquely positioned me to study and understand the various aspects that come into play when assessing a patient’s symptoms.

Symptoms are usually what motivate a patient to see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment. Symptoms are the natural way a body expresses a state of disease. Symptoms can be expressed emotionally or through physical pain as a bodily process. We’ll start off examining this latter process of symptom expression in my next post.