January 12, 2015

THE KEY TO HEALTH CARE REFORM IS REDUCING CONSUMPTION:

Skip Your Annual Physical (Ezekiel J. Emanuel, 1/08/15, NY Times)

There is only one problem: From a health perspective, the annual physical exam is basically worthless.

In 2012, the Cochrane Collaboration, an international group of medical researchers who systematically review the world's biomedical research, analyzed 14 randomized controlled trials with over 182,000 people followed for a median of nine years that sought to evaluate the benefits of routine, general health checkups -- that is, visits to the physician for general health and not prompted by any particular symptom or complaint.

The unequivocal conclusion: the appointments are unlikely to be beneficial. Regardless of which screenings and tests were administered, studies of annual health exams dating from 1963 to 1999 show that the annual physicals did not reduce mortality overall or for specific causes of death from cancer or heart disease. And the checkups consume billions, although no one is sure exactly how many billions because of the challenge of measuring the additional screenings and follow-up tests.

This lack of evidence is the main reason the United States Preventive Services Task Force -- an independent group of experts making evidence-based recommendations about the use of preventive services -- does not have a recommendation on routine annual health checkups. The Canadian guidelines have recommended against these exams since 1979.

Posted by at January 12, 2015 2:54 PM
  

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