This post is puts it more eloquently than I ever could and to our credit (and to everybody elses discredit) is written by an anaesthesiologist.
Right on. During the touchy-feelie parts of medical school I had to endure, they talked about the importance of touching patients and how to do it in an appropriate fashion. Aside from the touchy-feelie aspects, we learned in our physical exam sessions that you could actually get useful information like skin temperature, clamminess, edema and texture just by touching patients. I haven't come across it yet but I suspect some people are now donning gloves just examine patients or take their blood pressure.
Nobody likes to be a vector for infection but our infectious disease department expects you to wash your hands before AND after wearing gloves so the gloves are mainly for your aesthetic protection. I wear them now for starting IVs and doing injections in the Pain Clinic but I know they don't protect against needle-sticks.
Patients in isolation are another matter and the odd time I have to assess a patient either as chronic pain consults or for anaesthetic purposes, I feel like my hands are metaphorically tied behind my back. Trying to assess and counsel a patient while dressed up in a yellow gown, paper hat, mask and gloves sends the wrong type of message to the patient at what may be a stressful time for him plus it makes the examiner so uncomfortable that I at least just want to get things finished and get out of there as quickly as I can. Hardly good medicine.
As the author points out there is a great deal of information that can be obtained with a good stethoscope and I must admit that in the holding area, I am often remiss in this. Stethoscopes according to our infection control department are difficult to sterilize without damaging the plastic. They haven't gone as far a banning stethoscopes which would really look bad, not that more than half of doctors even own one now, but are just ignoring this.