Sir.—I have recently conducted a survey of 105 consecutive patients in my practice. (Respondent in this letter refers to the parent[s] of one patient.) I would like to share the summary of results with your readers and ask them to compare these results with their experience.
The first survey item: The single most important and useful tool the doctor uses to make a diagnosis is (a) history, (b) physical examination, or (c) laboratory and x-ray tests. Twenty, 75, and 4 respondents picked a, b, and c, respectively; six respondents did not answer.
It is heartening that so few chose laboratory and x-ray tests as the most important in light of the soap opera impression that "we can't tell you anything until we get all the test results back." On the other hand, the emphasis on physical examination might be a misguided deference to our eyes and hands and stethoscopes.