I shudder when I hear stories of physicians who order a CT scan to evaluate a patient's pain without examining the painful area. So I was happy to read that Dr. Abraham Verghese is on a mission to save the art of the physical exam.
Fancy tests such as echocardiograms and MRIs provide high-resolution pictures and detailed data about the body that can be invaluable in understanding exactly what is going on with a patient and in making wise treatment decisions. High-tech tests have been an essential factor in my surviving lymphoma.
But diagnostic tests should supplement the physical exam, not replace it. Radiologists can do a better job interpreting the x-rays or scans if given information about the patient obtained through a thorough physical exam by the referring physician. And "[a] proper exam also earns trust, he [Verghese] said, and serves as a ritual that transforms two strangers into doctor and patient."