The Benefits of Bringing Doctors Back to the Bedside

Dr. Abraham Verghese discusses bedside medicine with colleagues

The first two episodes of a new podcast from Johns Hopkins Medicine focus on “bringing doctors back to the bedside,” and both feature members of the Society of Bedside Medicine, where Stanford Medicine 25’s Abraham Verghese serves as an Advisory Council member. In these “Joy in Medicine” podcasts, aired on WYPR (a local NPR affiliate in Baltimore), physicians, residents and their patients offer their perspectives on why teaching, promoting and practicing bedside medicine is important.

From the physician perspective, bedside medicine allows doctors to be present with their patients. In the past, we have discussed how bedside medicine can help prevent physician burnout. On the podcast, Stephen Russell says that using physical exam skills with patients allows physicians to be their best selves and hone their craft at the highest level. Most important, though, is that a physical exam can lead to a timelier diagnosis and establish recognition and connection with the patient, says Brian Garibaldi. This is something that one of Garibaldi’s patients says she values and prefers.

Residents on the podcast say lessons learned from bedside teaching carry over into their practice of medicine. One resident named Erica shared how learning physical exam skills is essential for a number of reasons. She wants to work in global health where technology resources may not be as readily available due to cost, so she recognizes the importance of the physical exam in observing, diagnosing and treating a patient. Willard, another resident, points out how conversations he has with patients live stick with him more than feeling busy, hurried and stressed does.

We agree with one of the hosts, Charles Cummings, when he says that technology is wonderful but has “dehumanized” medicine and driven a wedge in the patient-physician relationship. Bringing doctors back to the bedside is indeed, as Cummings describes, a “re-entry into what medicine is all about.”


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