The Importance of an

In-Person Physical Examination

John Benedum, MD

ogy to evaluate patients. The virtual doctor visit is commonplace and will continue, I suspect, to be an ongoing part of our interac- tion with patients after the pandemic is over. The advantages are safe social distancing during this viral pandemic, convenience and time-saving for the patient. Early on we were asking patients to call and we would decide who absolutely needed to be seen in the office. Now, with the easing of the lockdown we are able to see more people in the office and have personal contact.


The question arises as to the value of an in-person physical ex- amination? Now that the virtual visit is paid for by Medicare and most insurance companies, will that become the norm? Obvi- ously, the patient doesn’t have to travel and the doctor should be able to interact with more people. This has advantages both ways…perhaps.

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he current Covid-19 pandemic has changed all of our behaviors. Primary care physicians are now being asked to limit access to the office and, instead, use new technol-

In addition, for the past several years Medicare has been paying for an annual preventive/health maintenance exam. This basi- cally is a questionnaire that can be completed by the nursing staff and does not require a physical exam or even contact with a physician.

Physicians are now having to decide who needs to be seen in the office and who can be treated virtually. It is true that many patient calls are simply requesting professional opinions on a minor issue and wanting reassurance that it will resolve natu- rally. In a case like this, a phone call should suffice.

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On the other hand, I would like to make the case for physical contact and physical examinations. First of all, many diagnoses cannot be made over the phone or through a video phone call. One cannot make an accurate diagnosis of otitis media (middle ear infection), differentiate types of vertigo, a melanoma, conges- tive heart failure, a cardiac murmur, or an abdominal mass. Every

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