Do annual physicals do more harm than good?

wecaremd.org

More on the value of annual physicals  (see Let’s not get rid of the annual physicalDeath of the Physical? Primary Care and its ‘Archaic’ Exam). In essence, to be useful, a physical should not be like a ‘fishing expedition’ through tests to find abnormalities, but more a review of family history and discussion with the patient on health issues, targeting tests where appropriate. Quote:

Other primary care experts agree. Welch says that as a primary care physician himself, he is not suggesting that patients skip annual visits. It’s just that he views these as “check-ins” not “check-ups.” The difference is that instead of running a battery of screening tests on every healthy patient, doctors would do better to assess a baseline of where patients are in their lives. Welch sees more benefit in asking patients questions that include; Are you working? How is your family situation? How do you feel? What are your goals for the future? The answers to these and other insights into family history of illness and other risk factors can help guide the physical exam. `

The Cochrane editorial concurs; “Practitioners should continue to investigate and treat patients with symptoms or clinical clues to underlying disease or its risk factors.” When it comes to the annual check-up, “ practitioners should focus on tests that are targeted to the patient’s age, sex, and specific risk factors, and that are supported by high-quality evidence.”

Do annual physicals do more harm than good?.

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