The Art and Science of Patient Care


In a perspective piece published in Wiley Online Library, author Robert Truog conveys the importance of the physical exam writing that “from the beginning, touching has been integral to doctoring.” In Of Slide Rules and Stethoscopes: AI and the Future of Doctoring, he describes the exam as a “physically intimate endeavor,” essential to both the art and science of patient care. The ritual has long been known to encourage trust and connection between patient and provider and, as articulated by Truog, reveal “secrets hidden within the body” that inform diagnosis and treatment.

Truog notes that over time, physicians have distanced “themselves from the patient's body” and today, most “examination occurs at a distance, using a variety of lenses that result in a collage of images.” He cautions that artificial intelligence (AI) in medicine could “accelerate retreat from the body,” but, if adopted properly, can give physicians with more time to devote to clinical encounters at the patient bedside.

We share this sentiment in a Stanford Medicine 25 blog post, How Technology May Lead to Greater Human Connection at the Bedside, explaining that, as AI is able to analyze and interpret more information, doctors can dedicate their attention to the physical exam and patient interaction. These facets of medicine, according to Truog, are what illustrate “the elemental commitment of the healer to the sick, a statement of companionship, of a willingness to accompany the patient wherever the illness leads.”

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