In today’s time-constrained society, medical practitioners are noticeably turning to modern technology to pinpoint health problems of patients. Most new-generation doctors who rely a great deal on sophisticated machines in ascertaining medical issues faced by their patients illustrate a startling reality: the standard physical examination stands to be eased out. While science has made possible quicker, more convenient, and non-invasive ways of spotting and treating health disorders, being overly dependent on technology has its drawbacks.
The problem with technology arises when doctors rush to order tests without first performing a thorough physical exam… Doctors may be overly reliant on tests because they have confidence in the results; however, tests aren’t always accurate” (Max, 2009, par. 6). A seemingly better approach that redounds to patient benefit is the combination of modern technology with age-old practices that worked, notably a thorough physical examination — done prior to tests or possible confinement and as part of the doctor’s hospital rounds.
There are several factors contributing to the demise or exclusion of the standard physical examination in modern medical practice. For one, there is the shortage of medical personnel in certain localities. Harried doctors and nurses end up employing measures to maximize time. “Time constraints also discourage performing a complete physical during routine office visits. The managed care system pushes doctors to see patients as briefly as possible” (Obel, 2003, par. 6).
The fact is that the physical examination “can be a valuable guide in deciding which tests to order and letting specialists know where to concentrate their efforts” (Obel, 2003, par. 7). Hence, the standard physical examination can greatly aid doctors in ruling out certain health issues, thereby saving time and money on unnecessary tests. However, new-generation doctors overlook these, believing that using sophisticated equipment is more effective in reaching an accurate medical analysis than conventional routine practices.
Indeed, a professional diagnosis relying first and foremost on the standard physical examination appears to have been displaced by modern devices. The downside is the loss of human contact that most patients may still prefer. “There is an intangible benefit to the contact afforded by the physical exam…(it) can go a long way in establishing and building a good doctor-patient relationship” (Max, 2009, par. 11), something which most patients – from the very young to the elderly – yearn for.
The emotional bonding between the healthcare giver and the patient is obliterated with less time allocated to examine patients. As seasoned medical practitioners decry the demise of the physical examination, which “can be therapeutic in itself” (Obel, 2003, par. 35), concerned medical institutions have instigated efforts to train and retrain medical interns on the vast range of medical approaches – including the routine physical examination.
The increasingly important role of nurses, who can assume the vital task of resuscitating the fading practice of conducting a thorough physical examination and promoting human interaction, cannot be underestimated. Well-trained nurses who realize the value of human interaction can play significant role in fostering enhanced patient care and faster recovery. The upsurge in electronic technology users is another phenomenon affecting the demise of face-to-face interaction with physicians and the traditional physical examination.
With many doctors nowadays dispensing medical advice online by relying purely on patient history and description of symptoms, thereby eliminating the need for a comprehensive physical examination, it becomes clear that modern trends are taking the place of traditional medical approaches. The inescapable fact is that medical practitioners cannot always totally rely on modern technology alone to ascertain patient needs. Even in modern times, there is a need to go back to basics, ingrain patient-oriented skills among the emerging crop of doctors, and revive conventional medical approaches like the physical examination.