Physical examination or clinical examination is the process by which a doctor investigates the body of a patient for signs of disease.
It generally follows the taking of the medical history — an account of the symptoms as experienced by the patient.
Together with the medical history, the physical examination aids in determining the correct diagnosis and treatment plan. This data then becomes part of the medical record.
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Uses of physical examinations
A physical examination may be provided under health insurance cover, required of new insurance customers, or stipulated as a condition of employment. In the United States, physicals are also marketed to patients as a one-stop health review, avoiding the inconvenience of attending multiple appointments with different healthcare providers. Comprehensive physical exams of this type are also known as executive physicals, and typically include laboratory tests, chest x-rays, pulmonary function testing, audiograms, full body CAT scanning, EKGs, heart stress tests, vascular age tests, urinalysis, and mammograms or prostate exams depending on gender. The executive physical format was developed from the 1970s by the Mayo Clinic and is now offered by other health providers, including Johns Hopkins University, EliteHealth and Mount Sinai in New York City.
About the Examination
A complete physical examination includes evaluation of general patient appearance and specific organ systems. It is recorded in the medical records in a standard layout which facilitates others later reading the notes. In practice the vital signs of temperature examination, pulse and blood pressure are usually measured first.