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Posted on 08-07-2013

How Important is a Good History and Physical Examination?

If you are reading the title of the blog post you probably already know where I am going with this. A good history and physical examination is the cornerstone to an accurate diagnosis and an appropriate treatment plan. Without a problem-focused examination and history a patient's complaints will be missed and the healing process will be protracted.

Sure, this seems obvious enough. When you get injured in a Baltimore auto accident and present to your doctor, ER, or urgent care facility, you expect that the doctor examining you is giving you an appropriate evaluation with appropriate radiographs (x-rays). Believe it or not, this may not always be the case. In this day in age with longer wait times and more patients being seen per day, most providers (whether they be doctors, PAs, nurse practitioners, chiropractors etc) are under more pressure than ever to "treat and street" patients to make room for more patients. In doing so they often go through a history and physical examination in a cursory manner, sometimes missing key injuries sustained by patients. You would be surprised how often the time of day or day of the week dictates how thorough a history and examination is given to any given patient. As you might expect, it has been my experience that more diagnoses are missed on Friday nights when the ERs are busy than are on Monday nights. In my nearly 5 years as a Chiropractor treating acutely injured patients involved in Baltimore auto accidents and baltimore worker's compensation injuries, I am shocked at how often diagnoses are missed by portal of entry providers.

Dr. Arthur Croft in his book "Whiplash and Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries: A Guide for Patients and Practitioners" (page 211) notes that "...medical school training is woefully inadequate to prepare doctors to examine and understand musculoskeletal disorders, despite the fact that this very class of disorder constitutes the leading causes of disability in the U.S. In a recent study published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, a validated musculoskeletal cognitive examination was given to medical students, residents, and staff physicians in multiple disciplines of medicine to assess the adequacy of their musculoskeletal medicine training. Only 21% received a passing score."

In news closer to my area of practice treating patients involved in Baltimore auto accidents, "...fourth year medical students from the University of Chicago were presented with a fictitious whiplash patient to evaluate how they would assess him if he were a real patient. He was a 21-year-old male who gave a history of being a passenger in a car that was struck from the rear...Shortly after the crash, he began to experience neck pain and was transported by ambulance to the ER...Only 21% palpated (touched) the neck, and only 17% asked the patient to turn his head from side to side."

I am in no way trying to be negative towards portal-of-entry providers who must handle tons of new injured patients every day. All I am trying to do is point out that doctors are busy and sometimes rush through the history and physical examination. By doing so, they put a patient's health at risk by missing diagnoses and not ordering appropriate diagnostic tests. It is important that you, as the patient, speak up and direct a doctor to your chief complaints to ensure that no appropriate diagnoses are missed.

As a Baltimore Chiropractor who routinely treats patients involved in Baltimore auto accidents, I have been trained to ask the right questions and take an appropriate history so that nothing is missed. I routinely work with other specialists such as orthopedists, pain management physicians, and neurologists who can perform special diagnostic testing if necessary. Rest assured that no matter how complex the motor vehicle collision I will take as much time as necessary to diagnose your condition and to establish an appropriate patient-focused treatment plan.

If you, or anyone you know, has suffered injuries as a result of an auto accident in Baltimore and are in need of auto accident treatment in Baltimore, please contact Mid-Atlantic Spinal Rehab & Chiropractic at (443) 842-5500. We would be glad to help!

Dr. Gulitz

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