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Annual Physicals: Some New Thoughts

If you ask a typical middle age to older patient, particularly a male, if they feel that an annual physical is a good idea most of them will reply yes.

The University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, Colorado recently surveyed 1200 individuals and learned that over 2/3 believe that annual physicals are a necessary component of routine medical care.

Most patients are unaware that the American Medical Association, the United States Public Health Service and many medical organizations have concluded that the annual comprehensive physical for a healthy patient is unnecessary.

I would be very surprised if any of you are aware of this information.

The feeling is that an annual comprehensive physical examination for a healthy patient has a very low yield of positive findings in that patient group. This is certainly not to say that occasionally things will be picked up. From a public health standpoint and a statistical standpoint the yield is very low and all of those normal exams and tests are very expensive.

Patients are very interested in tests of liver, kidney and thyroid function according to the study, none of which are currently recommended for healthy individuals.

There are tests of proven value such as mammograms, sigmoidoscopes, and other types of cancer screenings which are much more valuable in detecting early disease.

The study appeared in the medical journal, Annals of Internal Medicine in the May 7, 2002 issue.

To view an abstract of the article, CLICK HERE.