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Hands on: Abraham Verghese teaches bedside skills

Stanford's Abraham Verghese, MD, is trying to revive a vanishing art: the hands-on bedside exam. In this 1:2:1 podcast, he tells me that technology and the clock have conspired against the basic hands-on approach that used to be standard operating procedure in the exam room. Once a week he makes rounds with residents and tries to instill in them the importance of observation and using one's senses - hearing, vision, touch and even smell and taste - to gather the essentials about a patient's condition. "It would be unfortunate to use technology to tell us something that's clear on the first blush," says Verghese. "That's why the bedside practice is useful to us. It helps us ask better questions of the tests we order."

Last fall, Verghese, a senior associate chair for the theory and practice of medicine and bestselling author, brought together some 40 master clinicians from around the country who share his passion for rejuvenating bedside skills in health care. He makes a strong point when he compares the experience of a pilot with that of a physician:

The public would be scandalized if pilots were allowed to fly without ever having beein in the air with a seasoned examiner; medicine's standards should be no lower.

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