The Physical Exam: Have We Lost Our Touch Essay

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The Physical Exam: Have We Lost Our Touch? Christopher Reeve once said, “To be able to feel the lightest touch really is a gift.” (Medical). Superman would know. Medicine has undergone tremendous changes over the past several years in terms of technology. Technological advances allow Doctors to diagnose and treat patients who, without the wonders of modern medicine, would otherwise not have survived. In spite of this, there is a marked disconnect among Doctors and other healthcare workers and their patients. The physical exam is no longer of utmost importance. I observe patients undergoing PET scans with their brain imaged on a TV screen, and doctors doing laparoscopic surgery with the assistance of a robot. In my work, I use an ultrasound to find veins in a person’s body that would otherwise not be visible and then I place the tip of the line in the superior vena cava, the large vein that dumps into the heart, all with the use of technology. Technology’s potential is unlimited and medicine is better for it. However, patients are increasingly dissatisfied with the care they are receiving. Medicine existed thousands of years before it could offer any scientific help to patients because sick people need, first of all, attention: a great deal of specific, focused, caring attention (Bruhn 312). Today, physicians may care, but they have little time to devote to their patients. Research has shown that patients desire and expect their doctor to lay hands on them, to touch them and to perform a physical exam (Ofri). Perhaps we have become so wrapped up in the technology, the bureaucracy and the business end of medicine that we have forgotten that we are dealing with human beings. Regrettably, the computer, or the “ipatient”, as Dr. Abraham Verghese calls it in his TED talk, is a mandatory task requiring constant attention in order to satisfy hospital

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