A study of 440 emergency department doctors found that examinations are less thorough when ERs are so crowded that patients are treated in the hallway. Conducted at a 2015 Boston medical conference, the study revealed that 75% of physicians surveyed copped to obtaining less thorough medical histories of patients under these circumstances. Of that 75%, nearly all admitted that they also changed their standard procedure for conducting a physical exam.
Women who presented with genital or urinary problems were found to be the most underserved group, with the majority of doctors admitting that these issues impacted the way they conducted a physical exam or took a patient’s medical history. Interestingly, the majority of physicians surveyed also said that even in a private room, the presence of someone else known to the patient impacted the questions they asked and the way in which they went about an exam.
The issue of privacy is multilayered. In addition to the majority of doctors being surveyed acknowledging that the presence of others affects their practice of medicine, patients also are believed to withhold information when spouses, family members, friends, and strangers are present.