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Clin Med (Lond). 2017 Dec;17(6):490-498. doi: 10.7861/clinmedicine.17-6-490.

The value of the physical examination in clinical practice: an international survey.

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MRCP(UK), London, UK
University College London, London, UK.
Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.
School of Medicine and Public Health, Newcastle, Australia.
North-west London CLAHRC, London, UK.
Royal College of Physicians, London, UK.


A structured online survey was used to establish the views of 2,684 practising clinicians of all ages in multiple countries about the value of the physical examination in the contemporary practice of internal medicine. 70% felt that physical examination was 'almost always valuable' in acute general medical referrals. 66% of trainees felt that they were never observed by a consultant when undertaking physical examination and 31% that consultants never demonstrated their use of the physical examination to them. Auscultation for pulmonary wheezes and crackles were the two signs most likely to be rated as frequently used and useful, with the character of the jugular venous waveform most likely to be rated as -infrequently used and not useful. Physicians in contemporary hospital general medical practice continue to value the contribution of the physical examination to assessment of outpatients and inpatients, but, in the opinion of trainees, teaching and demonstration could be improved.


Bedside medicine; medical education; physical examination; physical signs

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