Do You Really Need A Check-Up? Maybe Not.

We’re always hearing about how important it is to see your doctor for a check-up, but is it? The WSJ Health Blog noticed a study that says “no.”

A lot of healthy Americans are going to the doctor for annual, preventive health visits, but there’s scant evidence that these pilgrimages provide much benefit, concludes a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Annual physicals and gynecological exams account for about 1 in 12 visits by adults to their doctors. And the tab for all those checkups is pretty hefty at nearly $8 billion per year, based on an analysis of nearly 180,000 visits from two national databases. The authors, from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School, say that this is the first time that the number and costs of these preventive health visits have been crunched.

So can we skip the check-up? The jury is out. It may not be worth what it costs, but it’s certainly not harming anyone’s health. From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

“Most patients believe they should see a doctor every year for a physical in which the doctor will examine them from head to toe and order lots of tests,” said lead author Ateev Mehrotra, a physician and public health expert at Pitt. “There are many doctors who disagree. Physicians need to reach greater consensus on what we should advise patients to do.”

The public is basically clueless about this controversy, and no wonder. Medical professionals harp on the importance of “early detection” and “prevention,” without explaining that major medical organizations do not recommend preventive health exams, or agree on how to define them.

Time to Cross Off Annual Checkups From To-Do Lists? [WSJ Health Blog]
Annual physicals may cost more than they’re worth [Philadelphia Inquirer]