The ancient Greek medical theory based on balance or imbalance of humors disappeared in the western world, but does survive elsewhere. Is this survival related to a certain degree of health care efficiency? We explored this hypothesis through a study of classical Greco-Arab medicine in Mauritania. Modern general practitioners evaluated the safety and effectiveness of classical Arabic medicine in a Mauritanian traditional clinic, with a prognosis/follow-up method allowing the following comparisons: (i) actual patient progress (clinical outcome) compared with what the traditional ‘tabib’ had anticipated (= prognostic ability) and (ii) patient progress compared with what could be hoped for if the patient were treated by a modern physician in the same neighborhood. The practice appeared fairly safe and, on average, clinical outcome was similar to what could be expected with modern medicine. In some cases, patient progress was better than expected. The ability to correctly predict an individual's clinical outcome did not seem to be better along modern or Greco-Arab theories. Weekly joint meetings (modern and traditional practitioners) were spontaneously organized with a modern health centre in the neighborhood. Practitioners of a different medical system can predict patient progress. For the patient, avoiding false expectations with health care and ensuring appropriate referral may be the most important. Prognosis and outcome studies such as the one presented here may help to develop institutions where patients find support in making their choices, not only among several treatment options, but also among several medical systems.