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Physical exam

Annual Physical at the Doctor's Office May be a Waste of Time and Money, Research Suggests

Wednesday, January 02, 2008 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: physical exam, medical myths, health news


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(NewsTarget) The tradition of the annual physical exam may be a waste of both time and money, according to a new study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

According to researchers, annual checkups in the United States are directly responsible for up to $350 million worth of unnecessary medical tests. In addition, they are responsible for less than 20 percent of the preventive care that patients receive in a year, with many critical tests taking place at different visits.

The value of annual checkups has been in doubt since the 1960s and 1970s, when large-scale trials found no evidence that they provided any medical benefit. According to lead researcher Ateev Mehrotra of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the RAND Corp., there is no major North American clinical organization that advises the checkups, yet 63 million adults in the United States still get one yearly.

According to the study, the average annual physical lasts 23 minutes and costs $116, including tests. Many potentially unnecessary tests, such as urinalyses or complete blood cell counts, are performed at these visits.

Meanwhile, less than 20 percent of patients received the eight important preventive tests tracked by the researchers at their annual physical. These tests, including mammograms and Pap smears, were more likely to be performed at a different visit.

"There's a lot of money, a lot of visits, a lot of adults going to see their doctor for annual physical exams with a real unclear benefit," Mehrotra said. "It's the number one reason adults see their doctor, and yet we don't know whether it's helpful or not."

Mehrotra said that the annual visits are unlikely to risk anyone's health; rather, they may simply waste time and money that could better be used elsewhere.

"Is a physical harmful at all? To the patient, there's likely little harm. The potential downsides of a physical are the money and [patients' and doctors'] time."

Conventional medicine critic Mike Adams agrees that annual physical checkups are a waste of time. "In fact," he says, "virtually everything done by conventional medicine other than urgent care is a complete waste of time and money. Western medicine has proven itself to be the fourth leading cause of death to American citizens, and most people would be better off firing their doctors and working with naturopathic principles to enhance health and prevent degenerative disease." Adams is the author of Natural Health Solutions and the Conspiracy to Keep You From Knowing About Them.

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