….the evidence today does not support the idea of the annual physical exam

I don’t get an annual physical since I see my PCP a few times a year, but I do ask him periodically whether it is time for a “full” blood profile since I am treated with prescriptions for various “senior” conditions such as high cholesterol.

“Worthless is a very strong word and it provokes a very emotional reaction from not just patients but doctors. But the reality is we like to practice evidence-based medicine, and the evidence today does not support the idea of the annual physical exam,” …. (A)

“But what are the true benefits of this practice? Careful reviews of several large studies have shown that these annual visits don’t make any difference in health outcomes. In other words, being seen by your doctor once a year won’t necessarily keep you from getting sick, or even help you live longer. And some of the components of an annual visit may actually cause harm. For example, lab tests and exams that are ordered for healthy patients (as opposed to people with symptoms or known illnesses) are statistically more likely to be “false positives” — that is, when test results suggest a problem that doesn’t exist.” (B)

“Sometimes there is confusion about preventive health exams versus preventive care in general. Things like mammograms, pap smears, PSA testing, those are considered preventive care procedures — and there’s a clear evidence base that these are very important for patients to receive. What we’re talking about [in our] study is the special visit for [general] preventive care.” (C)

“…. the American Medical Association and other similar groups have moved away from the yearly exam. They now suggest that medical checkups be referred to as Periodic Health Assessments or Examinations and that they be performed every five years (for adults over 18) until age 40 and every one to three years thereafter. The requirements are for more frequent evaluations for those taking prescription medications. (D))

“Other experts say a yearly checkup is an important part of building a physician-patient relationship and can lead to unexpected diagnoses such as of melanoma and depression. I think there are probably subsets of people who can go longer than a year between visits but I think it’s quite important for people to know their doctor before they get sick,”………………(E)

BEWARE! “Under the law, most health insurance plans must cover a set of preventive services without any cost to patients. Services include vaccines, colonoscopies, mammograms, pap smears, diabetes screenings and tobacco use screenings – all aimed at helping doctors and patients catch problems early, so they don’t become costly and more difficult to manage later.

Patients are soon discovering, however, that anything else discussed during a visit with their health care providers could cost them.

“There are times when a person might be charged cost-sharing for a service that is unrelated to the screening or preventive service, while they are not charged cost-sharing for the screening or preventive service itself,”…….(F)

So………discuss with your PCP the plusses and minuses of a physical examination for you specifically in place of the seemingly now outdated generic annual physical for everyone.


(A) http://www.cbsnews.com/news/do-you-really-need-a-yearly-physical-exam/

(B) http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/a-checkup-for-the-checkup-do-you-really-need-a-yearly-physical-201510238473

(C) http://content.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1735156,00.html

(D) http://www.emedicinehealth.com/checkup/article_em.htm

(E) http://www.foxnews.com/health/2016/01/19/is-annual-physical-necessary.html

(F) http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015/12/10/confusion-surrounds-free-obamacare-wellness-visits


Note: This blog shares general information about understanding and navigating the health care system. For specific medical advice about your own problems, issues and options talk to your personal physician.

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