A Review of Bates’ Visual Guide to Physical Examination
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Cynthia Graham, MA, MLIS
St. Catherine University 

Bates’ Visual Guide to Physical Examination is an instructional video collection in 18 volumes that features head-to-toe and body systems-based physical examination techniques. The purpose of this product is to demonstrate the physical assessment techniques and patient communication skills clinicians will use to gather information to support clinical decision-making.  


In addition to the physical examination video content, the resource includes 27 short videos demonstrating clinical communication techniques in the Communication and Interpersonal Skills collection. Bates’ Visual Guide also includes a collection of 15 interactive OSCE Clinical Skills videos that feature clinical reasoning scenarios.  

The primary intended audience for Bates’ Visual Guide is students and faculty in medical, nursing, and related health sciences programs (physician assistant, physical therapy, occupational therapy, etc.). Practicing clinicians might also benefit from Bates’ Visual Guide as a skills refresher in physical examination best practices.  

Bates’ Visual Guide to Physical Examination complements the well-known and widely used textbook, Bate’s Guide to Physical Examination and History Taking, 13th Edition (Wolters Kluwer, 2021), Bickley et al. Bickley serves as an advisor to the Bates’ Visual Guide project.  


Each of the 18 volumes in Bates’ Visual Guide to Physical Examination (average run time 23 minutes) is segmented into chapters that are linkable and searchable from within the product. There are four head-to-toe assessments (infant, child, adult, and older adult), one general survey and vital signs examination, and 13 system-based examinations. Video chapters commonly begin with an introduction that covers the learning objectives, a health history, and an anatomy review with graphical overlay of internal anatomy. Physical examination chapters follow and address the typical and common atypical findings that may be observed. The final portion of each volume includes a recording of user findings that simulates electronic documentation of patient encounters.  

The Communication and Interpersonal Skills videos (27 short videos with an average run time under four minutes) demonstrate general clinical communication techniques like active listening, summarizing, and motivational interviewing. Additional videos in this collection cover techniques to address sensitive or challenging topics, build rapport, and establish supportive and nonjudgmental clinical environments, such as with people who have physical or sensory disabilities or people who identify as LGBTQIA+.  

Each of the 15 OSCE Clinical Skills scenarios (average run time of 22 minutes) uses a standard chaptered format: health history, physical examination, diagnostic considerations, diagnostic workup, and summary. The OSCEs feature relatively common pediatric and adult scenarios. Some examples of this OSCE content are a 17-year-old with sore throat, a 70-year-old with recent history of falls, and a 45-year-old with knee pain. Viewers will use the OSCEs to build skills at developing an assessment or differential diagnosis and providing a diagnostic workup. 

Navigating the Bates’ Visual Guide collection is fairly intuitive. The side-bar table of contents for each video volume provides links for navigating to chapters within the volume. “See also” references for each chapter provide links to other related content across the collection. Every video in all three areas of this resource has a downloadable PDF transcript and all videos are closed captioned. 

Although the internal search engine is adequate for general searches across the physical assessment, communication skills, and OSCE content, the product would benefit from a more robust search engine. An improved search engine will become more critical in future iterations if content is expanded. Similarly, the product will be improved by more readily accessible user support and FAQs for navigating, searching, and linking in course management systems. The current user guide is somewhat challenging to find and provides limited screenshots of the product and its features. Improved and increased online support for system administrators would also be beneficial, especially for accessing and interpreting usage data. All three of the video areas in the collection will benefit from additional content that features a more diverse range of clinicians and patients. Expanded OSCE content related to pediatric patients, especially infants and young children, would enhance the collection.  

Business Model 

Wolters Kluwer offers both institutional licensing access and individual user access to Bates’ Visual Guide (with or without OSCE content). For institutions, the resource is accessed by either IP authenticated access or via referring URL access. Although Bates’ Visual Guide complements the Bate’s Guide to Physical Examination and History Taking textbook, the book is not included in Bates’ Visual Guide and the ebook cannot be licensed by libraries as a standalone ebook. The institutional pricing model is based upon institutional size. Individual subscribers may access Bates’ Visual Guide content using a single-user access code. Individual users may also purchase the Bate’s Guide to Physical Examination and History Taking book bundled with the Bates’ Visual Guide (12-month access) for about $250.  


Libraries that desire instructional video content to support students, faculty, and clinicians who are learning to perform physical assessments, especially those familiar with the Bate’s Guide to Physical Examination and History Taking textbook, will find Bates’ Visual Guide a useful tool. The communication skills content and OSCE content may be particularly useful for board exam preparation or as additional preparation prior to clinical placements, clerkships, or rotations. The ability to integrate whole video volumes or individual chapters into course management systems, lectures, and syllabi is convenient for faculty and for students. It should be noted that the rapidly changing landscape of course materials, with increasingly integrated textbook, simulation, and video content, may impact academic library purchase decisions in this content area and may offer more affordable alternatives. 

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