On the first day of class, one of my medical school professors limped in, stopped, then proceeded to teach us specifically what ailment a patient has to cause his “limp.” He went on to explain, “By the time you finish this didactic course in orthopedics, you will be able to diagnose a consequential patient problem just by watching them walk!”
At the beginning of each class, the professor would “limp” in, and then show which muscle groups were affected, what caused the dysfunction, and how we might prepare our subsequent patient history.
The final exam was the professor ambulating in front of the class with a “limp,” while we wrote down what muscles, ligaments, tendons, or bones were causing the “walk,” and what the diagnoses might be.
To this day by their walk alone, I can tell if a patient has had a stroke, suffers from Parkinson’s disease, has had polio in the past, may have a side effect to a medication, has arthritis of the knee or hip, and many other ailments. How many of your doctors watch you walk? How many spend more than 10 to 15 minutes asking you questions? Medicine has changed, and so has the ability of doctors to make a diagnosis from simple observation.
Instead, they rely on technology to figure it out. “Let’s do an x-ray, get a blood test, or hope the insurance company will allow us to do a CT scan or MRI.”
Simply observing might be cheaper.
Sometimes, one wonders why the public has diminished confidence in the medical profession. When my colleagues have been relegated by insurance companies, hospitals and health care organizations to making a stethoscope a relic of the past, and the discussion between patients and doctors is limited to a few minutes, then all of us suffer.
I believe technology is helping the medical profession provide better health care to society. But when a doctor doesn’t have time to assess a patient’s ability to walk, my profession is literally out of step in benefitting those they serve.
Dr. Gene Dorio