As technology has gained ground in medicine and critics have called into question the diagnostic accuracy of physical examinations, what place does the practice of the physical exam have in today's clinic? In depth, qualitative interviews with 16 family physicians in Canada revealed a common view that physical examinations help promote a healthy patient-physician relationship and constitute an integral part of being a good doctor. Guided by principles of phenomenology, which considers how human beings experience a certain phenomenon--in this case, the physical examination itself--the research found that in addition to diagnostic information gained in physical examinations, the empathic benefits of "laying on hands" served as an important reminder of the physician's role as healer. At a time when contemporary clinical practice is grappling with the influx of emerging diagnostic technology, the physical exam is seen by many doctors as a grounding and centering element of the time-honored art of family medicine.
Family Physicians' Experiences of Physical Examination
Martina Kelly, MA, MBBCh, FRCGP, CCFP, et al
University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada