Perspectives

COVID-19, Telemedicine, and the Demise of the Physician’s Touch

Authors: Philip A. Mackowiak, MD, MACP

Abstract

Even before the #MeToo movement, touching another person carried an element of risk. With the advent of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, that risk has intensified as a result of the role of direct contact between individuals in spreading the infection. This is not to say that the danger of becoming infected by touching another person was unrecognized before  the COVID-19 pandemic. Infection control practitioners have long extolled the benefits of washing hands between patients, and
of isolating those in the hospital with known transmissible infections. Whereas in the distant past comforting patients by sitting on their bed and holding their hand was a part of the art of medicine, recent policies have made the practice an infection control “no-no.”
Posted in: Infectious Disease37

This content is limited to qualifying members.

Existing members, please login first.

If you have an existing account please login now to access this article or view your purchase options.

Purchase only this article ($15)

Create a free account, then purchase this article to download or access it online for 24 hours.

Purchase an SMJ online subscription ($75)

Create a free account, then purchase a subscription to get complete access to all articles for a full year.

Purchase a membership plan (fees vary)

Premium members can access all articles plus recieve many more benefits. View all membership plans and benefit packages.

References

1. Drees J. VA taps Philips for $100M expansion of critical care telehealth program. https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/telehealth/va-taps-philips-for-100m-expansion-of-critical-care-telehealth-program.html. Published July 8, 2020. Accessed July 9, 2020.
2. Dyrda L. Telehealth providers doing ‘ visits than humanly possible’ in a day draw CMS scrutiny. https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/telehealth/telehealth-providers-doing-more-visits-than-humanly-possible-in-a-day-draw-cms-scrutiny.html. Published July 7, 2020. Accessed July 7, 2020.
3. Morris NP. Staying apart during a pandemic. JAMA Intern Med 2020;180:1047-1048.
4. Bruhn JG. The doctor’s touch: tactile communication in the doctor-patient relationship. South Med J 1976;71:1469-1473.
5. Fisher JD, Rytting M, Heslin R. Hands touching hands: affective and evaluative effects of an interpersonal touch. Sociometry 1976;39:416–421.
6. Hampton JR, Harrison MJG, Mitchell JRA, et al. Relative contributions of history-taking, physical examination and laboratory investigation to diagnosis and management of medical outpatients. BMJ 1975;2:486–489.
7. Reilly BM. Physical examination in the care of medical inpatients: an observational study. Lancet 2003;362:1100–1105.
8. Verghese A, Charlton BC, Kassirer JP, et al. Inadequacies of physical examination as a cause of medical errors and adverse events: a collection of vignettes. Am J Med 2015;128:1322–1324.
9. Kampmeier RH. Medicine as an art: the history and physical examination. South Med J 1982;75:203–210.
10. Clinical Laboratory Improvement Act of 1988, 102 Stat. 2903, 100th Congress (1988)