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Calls Go Out to Revive the Traditional Physical
Date:1/28/2011

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Jan. 28 (HealthDay News) -- "Getting back to basics" has become a mantra for those who think people have become too reliant on technology, and a growing number of medical experts would agree with the sentiment.

They're concerned that doctors are neglecting the value of talking with patients and performing a hands-on physical examination in favor of newfangled tests and scans.

"I personally believe that 90 percent of the information you need to diagnose an illness can be obtained through a patient history and a physical examination," said Dr. Marguerite R. Duane, a family physician with Columbia Road Health Services in Washington, D.C. "The value of testing is to confirm a suspected underlying abnormality and to monitor people with chronic illness."

The pressure to rely on tests and imaging scans comes from several different sources, Duane said.

Doctors tend to lean on testing because it's quick and easy, she said. To stay financially afloat, physicians often are forced to schedule just 15 minutes with each patient, she said -- too little time to be able to perform a thorough examination.

"It's much faster and easier to write an order for a blood test or a chest X-ray," she said.

Doctors also face pressure from patients, who often insist on having tests run to verify the physician's diagnosis. "There becomes an expectation that I need a test or image to know what's wrong with me," Duane said. "It takes so much time to explain why a patient doesn't need a test [that] a doctor will just sign off on it."

However, testing performed in lieu of careful examination can have serious downsides.

Dr. Glen Stream, president-elect of the American Academy of Family Physicians and a family doctor in Spokane, Wash., said that such tests can actually do harm to a patient, particularly invasive procedures such as heart catheterization or colonoscopy. Even
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