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November 2017

The Future of the Neurologic Examination

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Neurology, School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco
JAMA Neurol. 2017;74(11):1291-1292. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2017.2500

The development of precision medicine, gene therapies, advanced imaging techniques, novel monitoring systems, ingestible or injectable sensors, and remote medical care (telemedicine) is leading to remarkable changes in health care. But the increasing ability to deliver care remotely will also reduce physical interactions between physicians and patients, with implications that have barely been explored.

There is no doubt that the art of the neurologic examination is already being lost, as some of these advances come to supplant rather than complement the clinical examination. Indeed, the modern trainee neurologist can perhaps be pardoned for wondering about the place of the clinical examination when, for example, magnetic resonance imaging or computed tomography can detect, localize, and provide prognostic information about a central lesion in just a few minutes and genetic studies can diagnose certain disorders regardless of the clinical findings. The neurologic examination requires time, patience, effort, and expertise and may have to be performed in difficult or unpleasant circumstances, whereas an imaging or laboratory study simply requires completion of a request form and the responsibility is passed to a colleague. Why, then, examine the patient?