Health and Fitness

Telemedicine and the Physical Exam

Earlier this week, I read a troubling article by a physician suggesting that the physical examination may be archaic. He implied that with the use of modern technology, including blood tests and radiology, a thorough physical examination may be outdated

Telemedicine has been around since the 1980s. With the presence of the COVID-19 virus, increased usage of telehealth has become a necessity. A new survey from Gallup found the number of patients reporting “virtual“ medical visits more than doubled, from 12% to 27% from late March to mid May.

It is easy to see why both patients and physicians like telemedicine. Telehealth visits can be be dine from the comfort of your home. For the physician, this means that they can see many more patients in the same amount of time. For the patients, they have the convenience of not having to leave their home to have a medical visit.

Telehealth can be a valuable resource in rare and unique situations. Let’s hope, however, that it does not become the norm and the art of a thorough physical examination is lost.

Physical examination involves palpating different parts of the patient’s body. When performed by a skilled examiner, this provides a great deal of diagnostic and treatment information. Pathology such as abdominal aneurysms or central nervous pathologies causing spasticity, just to name a few, are readily apparent in the hands of a skilled examiner. Substituting the physical examination exclusively with multiple radiographic and laboratory examinations would be both dangerous and expensive.

Stay well!


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