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Many things old are new again.

While CAT scans, MRIs, and other high-tech advances permeate the jargon of modern medicine, many of the standard "die-hard" practices such as house calls and pulse taking--along with the general practice family physician--continue to prosper, indicates Leonard Morgan, assistant professor of family medicine, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. While many people consider the house call to be a long-dead casualty of busy, impersonal society, it remains alive and well and a very valid health care alternative, particularly for the growing number of elderly patients.

House calls will become even more popular as the American population continues to age, he predicts. While they can be time-consuming and limited because of the lack of access to office medical equipment, they nonetheless allow physicians to get to know patients in a way that they can not during a regular office call." . . . Positive doctor-patient relationships are more easily forged during house calls, while problems such as alcoholism and medication mismanagement are easier to identify."

Still fundamental to the art of medicine and one of the doctor's most basic diagnostic tools, "Pulse taking [reveals] the heart rate and how it responds to exertion. The rhythm and strength of the pulse also help a physician to establish if the heart is working properly. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, taking the pulse is the hallmark of the physician. It provides personal contact and is a valuable tool to help put a patient at ease."

Taking a pulse, and holding the patient's hand in order to do so, also illustrates an old philosophy that is returning to the fore. Known as "high-touch" (in contrast with "high-tech"), the concept is being stressed in more and more medical schools to re-establish the reality of a caring doctor.

Finally, despite many dire predictions that the general practitioner/family physician was doomed to become extinct, they are more needed than ever, Morgan maintains. "Specialists are consulted once a specific problem is already identified. However, family physicians continue to be the health care specialists who are often a person's first and/or only contact with the health care system. [They] still serve as the [doctors] who can see each member of the family and provide continuity of care. Also, as our society becomes more prevention-oriented in terms of health, the general physician's skills become even more important."
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Title Annotation:health care procedures
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Date:Oct 1, 1993
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