In, But Out of Touch: Connecting With Patients During the Virtual Visit

Martina Ann Kelly, Gerard J Gormley
Annals of Family Medicine 2020, 18 (5): 461-462
Covid-19 has rapidly changed physician-patient interaction, from hands-on to hands-off medicine. In this essay, 2 family physicians on different continents reflect on the meaning of touch in clinical practice and how virtual care is transforming this tacit aspect of patient care. Although technology enables physicians to stay in touch with patients verbally, we have lost the ability to physically touch. Traditionally, touch is central to medical practice, physical examination guides diagnosis and informs management. But the silent language of touch fulfills a deeper symbolic function, enabling physicians to acknowledge patient concerns in a tangible way. Touch expresses healing, extending beyond skin-to-skin contact to express humanity, caring, and connection. As we adapt to novel technologies, we wonder how, as family physicians, we will adapt our clinical acumen to extend our ability to connect with patients.

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