Testing and the Physical Exam

A recent article on the National Public Radio website entitled “The Fading Art of the Physical Exam” caught our attention.  In the article they interviewed several well-known physicians who have noticed that many patients referred to them have had expensive testing, but little or no physical examination by their doctor regarding their problem.  In most cases, the patient’s problem was easily determined by physical examination and the tests were a large and unnecessary expense.

We have noticed this trend as well and always bristle when a patient sees us about a hand problem with a pile of tests ordered by other health care providers.  In many cases, as seen in the article mentioned, their problem is simple and easily diagnosed and treated without any complex testing.  So much of a physician’s job is just listening to the patient, performing a simple examination, and then administering treatment.  Technology and sophisticated testing is both a blessing and a curse to modern medicine.  It is clearly no substitute for using human senses – hearing what the patient’s complaint is and then laying hands on them to investigate what are the most likely sources of the problem.  Testing then offers an opportunity to complete the process of determining what is wrong.

We try and save our patients time and money whenever possible by offering required diagnostic testing at our facility.  If patients need imaging to confirm a diagnosis, then we have a fluoroscope on site that takes an immediate image of the hand or arm.  We don’t have to send our patients to another facility for x rays, MRIs or other costly testing.  Even our nerve conduction tests can be performed at our office, but an examination and understanding the patients symptoms is still our greatest diagnostic tool.  Here at SWFHS we practice efficient and effective medicine, we listen to the patients first and then confirm with testing only when necessary and beneficial.