How the physical exam can affect the doctor-patient relationship

The physical exam is increasingly being overlooked, and replaced by diagnostic tests, which are easier, and take less time, to order.

At this new blog over at The Atlantic, Abraham Verghese talks about how the physical exam, when done well, “earns the trust of the patient, and it also lays the foundation for the patient-physician relationship.”

However, when done poorly, “it does the opposite–it creates mistrust, or even a sense of being disrespected.”

Again, the root of the problem is time, or the lack thereof, in today’s medical practice. Physician time is given no value in how doctors are compensated, so, it’s no surprise that the physical exam falls by the wayside.

But, as Dr. Verghese notes, that is to everybody’s detriment: “I don’t think we even begin to comprehend how much a sloppy exam costs us in terms of missed diagnoses, unnecessary tests, and complications from tests (such as reactions to contrast for a CAT scan) that were never indicated.”