In the past, physical exams were the only means of regular healthcare visits. But today, with telehealth as an increasingly popular alternative, many wonder, "are physical exams obsolete?" If patients can receive most of their care remotely, why bother coming in for a physical exam? These are the questions on physicians' minds as they maneuver the new world of remote and hybrid healthcare. Fortunately, we've got some answers.
What's Happening to Physical Exams?
While physical exams will always be necessary for medical emergencies or diagnoses, that could be the only times they are needed. Nearly every patient has undergone a number of annual physicals in their lifetime, in which their provider checks their vitals and other basic determinants of health. More often than not, this served as a formality, ensuring that the patient is maintaining their health.
When the only form of healthcare was in-person, this was the standard, and no one questioned it. But today, with telehealth growing in popularity and demand, patients are questioning the necessity and value of the physical exam. Telehealth allows patients to regularly meet with their providers remotely. This means no commutes, less time off from work, and shorter waiting times. For patients in good health, a physical assessment seems unnecessary when remote visits get the job done.
Developments in wearable technology, combined with telehealth, further call into question the necessity of the physical exam. Devices such as heart monitors and Fitbits allow providers to monitor their patients' health without ever stepping foot into a doctor's office. With such technology, it makes sense that patients in good health no longer see the need for a physical exam.
But that still begs the question, are they obsolete?
Healthcare providers understand the value of a physical exam, even if it may not be performed as often as in the past. However, they also see how telehealth has changed the healthcare industry forever. With this in mind, it's understandable that physical exams would change too. So, while not entirely obsolete - the physical exam may not be a regular occurrence as it once was.
Keeping Physical Exams Relevant
As mentioned, modern technologies help providers monitor their patients' health virtually. Wearable technology and telehealth platforms allow patients to track their health and share it with their provider, ensuring that their health is maintained. Only once patients notice a problem in their health will they need to see their provider for a physical exam - that is, if patients are monitoring their health regularly and responsibly.
If patients are experiencing discomfort or notice a decline in their health, they can meet with their provider for a diagnostic physical exam. During this, providers will run through a traditional physical exam to form a diagnosis for the patient.
While this may not seem different from a traditional physical exam, the difference is that providers should be selective about when and how much of a physical exam they do. The physical exam should either be highly comprehensive, with the intent of making a diagnosis, or not at all.
Now, you may be wondering, why does this matter? While physical exams have no real implications for patients or providers, they often don't serve many benefits either. For example, consider that a patient is in perfect health and knows it. Regardless of this, they still have to meet with their provider in person for a physical exam. Patients will take time off of work, commute to their doctor's office, and wait for nearly an hour just to get a clean bill of health. Consequently, both the patient's and physician's time was wasted - both of which are valuable.
Even beyond time, unnecessary physical exams can waste valuable resources. In some cases, the physical exam has become fraudulent, designed to drive up a patient's bill. While that may not always be the case, it is definitely an ineffective use of patient and provider resources when not deemed medically necessary.
But, with selective physical exams, this can be avoided. Patients in good health can meet with their providers remotely and as needed. Doing so still ensures regular check-ups with their provider where they can share any concerns while taking up considerably less time and resources. Even if a patient has a minor problem, remote meetings can still be an effective platform for diagnosis.
Telediagnoses are vastly growing in popularity as providers discover that advice and treatment are possible without physical contact. On the other hand, if a patient has more severe concerns over their health, they can schedule a physical exam where their provider can attempt to make a diagnosis.
This method ensures that all physical exams are worthwhile, saving time and resources for everyone involved. With less time spent on formalities such as unnecessary physical exams, providers have more time to deliver an improved patient experience. Whether this is meeting with patients, determining diagnoses, or simply freeing up their schedule, the time saved is valuable.
Modern Medicine is Hybrid
Some healthcare industry members fear that if the physical exam is deemed obsolete, there will never be in-person meetings between patients and providers again - but this is not the case.
Hybrid healthcare is not meant to replace traditional, in-person care but supplement it. By using a more selective approach to healthcare, patients and providers can still meet in person as is desired or necessary. The difference is that rather than in-person care being the only option, it is now just one option of many.
Telehealth allows patients and providers to meet and collaborate from any location, vastly improving healthcare access worldwide. And while patients may not meet with their providers in person as often as before, statistics show that patients are actually more likely to receive regular care with telehealth.
As telehealth saves time and resources for patients, they are much more inclined to seek out healthcare services when it is convenient for them. Since patients can monitor their health independently and meet with their providers more easily and efficiently, patient outcomes also improve. Even for providers, telehealth helps them work more efficiently, allowing them to meet with more patients in a valuable way.
While the physical exam will never be entirely obsolete, telehealth and hybrid healthcare are changing the way that physicians care for their patients. With developments in technology finding new and alternative solutions for regular care and diagnoses, it was only a matter of time until physical exams evolved - and that time is now.
Medicai is a telehealth platform that bridges the gap between patients and doctors. With in-cloud, real-time collaboration, patients and doctors can easily collaborate and communicate in one all-encompassing platform. If you're interested in learning more about Medicai, visit our website.