Before 2020 created new problems across the world, most people would regularly visit their doctors each year for a physical examination. It was always straightforward and routine for a majority of patients. However, 2020 is changing the routine.

Many patients now rely on telemedicine as their primary source for treatments or routine appointments. It could lead to a new trend where physical examinations fade into the background and hospitals try to arrange virtual appointments as much as possible.

What could go wrong?

Although telemedicine can provide greater accessibility, many experts have stated concerns surrounding the abandonment of in-person physicals. Dr. Paul Hyman, author and a primary care physician in Maine, told NPR that he gained a greater appreciation for examining patients face-to-face.

It’s kind of a learning experiment in real time. In some ways, I am more cautious because I am not sure what I am missing from not seeing the patient in person. And so I try to think through what I would have gained from the physical exam. And if there is enough of a concern about that, then I will advocate for the patient to be examined.

There is some concern around “the missing pieces” of virtual examinations. Patients may not include information or describe the pain as clearly as they would during a traditional visit. Doctors might also misinterpret details to indicate other diagnoses. It creates a perfect storm for misdiagnosis and improper treatments in serious cases. Some doctors also express issues with the time allotment for virtual appointments and feel more rushed to identify patients’ problems instead of treating them for their ailments.

As the world continues to become more virtual, patients need to continue to evaluate how to approach virtual visits to ensure they are receiving the right care for their health circumstances.