We all want to provide great general practice care. Most of this comes from time, curiosity, and interest in our patients. When we turn our attention and medical skills to their problems and issues we do better work.
Physical examination has been around since antiquity and is a useful adjunct to taking a great history. Much like over investigating, physical examination is not always needed.
General practice is so much more than compliance and paperwork.
So much can be pared away to reveal the essence of what we do.
In the time of #COVID19, perhaps we can chip away to reveal our statues of David rather than be inflexible blocks of government marble.
Another set of thoughts, better expressed…
By Jeremy Samuel Faust
Since 1986, federal law has mandated that any patient requesting emergency medical care must be evaluated by a physician to assess for any threatening conditions. The law, often referred to as the “anti-dumping law,” requires that physicians perform a medical screening evaluation, including a physical examination.
Over time, the interpretation of this mandate has slowly expanded, not by law so much as by custom. This is why emergency rooms have become our nation’s safety net for care. Despite increasing popularity of urgent-care clinics and telehealth, many patients who could have safely been cared for elsewhere still end up in emergency rooms.
While many of us embrace that mission with pride, it is dangerous and wasteful in the coronavirus pandemic. We need to course-correct to keep everyone safe. Exposing patients to emergency rooms is now far riskier than it was before. In turn, health-care workers must assume that all patients are infected. This forces us to blow through personal protective equipment that we desperately need so that we do not become infected ourselves.
Over the past few decades, we have learned that many, if not most, of our physical examination maneuvers provide little reliable information. In most cases, the information we need can be obtained simply by interviewing patients. But old habits die hard, and patients seem to love our stethoscopes. In our current situation, that simply won’t do.
We need the federal government to allow us to perform medical screening exams via video or through glass doors, even for patients entering emergency rooms. The removal of the requirement that we evaluate every patient by hand will save resources and keep everyone safer.
In recent meetings and phone calls with stakeholders, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has signaled that it is seriously considering making this change. But it has not materialized, and time is of the essence. The moment to act is now.
Jeremy Samuel Faust is an emergency physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in the Division of Health Policy and Public Health, and an instructor at Harvard Medical School.