The healing touch in clinicians’ hands

Published - July 02, 2012 12:31 pm IST - KOCHI:

The cutting edge tool in medicine has always been there with every physician, but modern day physicians, perhaps, fail to use it.

The clinician’s hands are seldom used to touch and know the patient’s illness, says psychiatrist Philip John.

The doctors’ hands are not just a functional limb; doctors have to use it to connect with the patient.

It is the most important diagnostic tool that the new generation doctors seem to have failed to recognise, says Dr. John.

There is perhaps lack of training in good physical examination, he adds.

The hands and the mind have to work together to touch and comprehend the patient’s problems, he said.

In fact there are four steps of physical examination — inspection, palpation, percussion and auscultation (using the stethoscope).

The fact that touch is to connect, comprehend, diagnose and reassure the process of healing is forgotten amidst the ultramodern tools that provide images of every part of the body or gives all kind of analysis of the blood.

Clinical examination gives 70 per cent of the possible diagnosis. It is a must for all doctors, says oncologist V. P. Gangadharan.

“It is only to confirm the observations that we need to use other diagnostic tools. And it brings down the cost of medical examination for the patient”.

Spending about five minutes in clinical examination is important for the doctor as well as the patient, says M. Venugopal, paediatrician.

It is what is generally taught in medical colleges but probably seldom followed, he adds.

Touch and palpation gives the doctors an idea about what to probe and an explanation assures the patient and the bystander, said Dr. Venugopal.

Dr. John calls it a miracle of the mind and hands that sets the process of healing.

The quality of touch helps develop a trust with the patient. It is the power of touch that made doctors the revered ones in the past.

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