We have gradually come to realize that the routine physical did little or nothing to improve health outcomes and was largely a waste of time and money. Today the emphasis is on identifying factors that can be altered to improve outcomes. We are even seeing articles in the popular press telling the public that no medical group advises annual checkups for healthy adults. If patients see their doctor only when they have symptoms, the doctor can take advantage of those visits to update vaccinations and any indicated screening tests. – Harriet Hall
Check out the full article for a very interesting read. I think that Hall hits the nail on the head when she suggests that the real reason the annual physical exam has persisted is doctors’ fear of being sued for NOT diagnosing a problem. Yet I have to think that there has to be a better way to strike a balance than spending billions of dollars on health exams for healthy people.
Like Hall, I’m in no way saying that anyone should NOT go to the doctor if they have a problem or even stop having annual exams if they don’t want to. But I can’t help but cringe whenever I, a perfectly healthy adult, get those “this is not a bill”s after my physicals and see how much money is going into telling me that I’m…a perfectly healthy adult. Still.
I’ve got no problem spending money on things that keep me healthier. But if annual exams aren’t one of those things, then how much am I spending for a false sense of security?
EDIT: Aaand, there’s a wise follow-up piece by the same author: When To See A Doctor