The acutely ill patient merits prompt attention. In these situations, a concise history and physical examination are in order. A careful history of the present and past illnesses must be taken expeditiously so that the diagnosis may be made and treatment begun. It may be appropriate in this setting to interview the patient while performing the physical examination; time is of the essence. However, patients who are acutely ill may respond to questions more slowly than normal because of pain, nausea, or vomiting. Be considerate of their problems, and allow them time to answer questions. After a patient's condition has been stabilized, there will be time to go back and take a more complete history.
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