One of our Associates recently sent me this story, written by a physician who urges doctors to return to the healing power of touch, and cautions that the rush to use the latest high-tech diagnostic tools often ignores the intrinsic value of a physical exam.
As I have often said, one of the reasons for the skyrocketing cost of health care is not misuse, but overuse. The author of the article avoided costly tests (ultrasounds, CAT scans, MRIs) to diagnose the patient’s condition by merely touching her, but this was not her first line of thought.
It also impresses upon me the importance of family practice physicians and physician extenders, who—it seems to me—generally have a much greater tendency to rely on their diagnostic skills.
We constantly hear the excuse that physicians are worried about liability, and therefore utilize more technology both in lab and radiology to, in essence, protect themselves from unmerited malpractice suits. This is why we have been so clear that tort reform must be included in national health care reform. I will not rehash the CHRISTUS experience with tort reform in Texas in this post, but feel free to visit a previous post on tort reform to learn how successful we believe it has been thus far.
If we as physicians could return to utilizing more physical diagnosis and not worry about liability before jumping to the use of technology, we would go far in reducing overuse and misuse in the health care industry.
The case Dr. Castro described in her article demonstrates that hypoglycemia is the most common cause for diabetic confusion (which is quickly diagnosed from confused dialogue with a sweaty patient). This patient could have been sent for a CAT scan or MRI, during which she could’ve suffered ongoing and probably permanent brain damage from her persistent low blood sugar.