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The Essentially Useless Annual Checkup

October 21, 2012

We now have even more proof that the annual physical, health check, health maintenance visit, or whatever else you want to call it, is essentially useless.

The Cochrane Collaboration recently published a review of the topic. They performed a meta-analysis of 14 randomized controlled trials of annual checkups of 180,000 adults less than 65. The patients were followed for an average of 5 years. The checkups made no difference on deaths from heart disease, stroke, or cancer.

This study does not mean all interventions in asymptomatic adults should cease. Occasional Pap smears, mammograms, cholesterol screening, and colon cancer screening lower disease-specific mortality (but none reduce healthcare costs).

This analysis does mean that there is even more proof that the corporate wellness programs embraced by so many Fortune 500 companies are an extraordinary waste of time, effort, and revenue. These programs have diverted these companies from reforms that will actually reduce their healthcare costs, such as supporting family medicine, refusing to buy over-priced services, and eliminating ologist-hospital excesses.

When will the corporate payers get it? Let’s hope it is as soon as possible.

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One Response to The Essentially Useless Annual Checkup

  1. Tracie Updike MD on October 21, 2012 at 9:18 pm

    Yes indeed. I feel that I am banging my head against a wall because I try so hard to explain to my patients what is good medicine and what is questionable.

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