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Annual Medical Checkups: Are they Necessary? Are Medical Checkups Really Necessary?

Updated on March 22, 2017

Ever heard the saying "if it is not broken, don't fix it?" Well, it does not apply to health and medicine anymore, there was a time when people visit hospitals only when they are sick or dying off, that is changing now. More people are beginning to understand that human beings are a lot like machine, we need regular checkup and maintenance to function effectively.

The popularity of medical checkups has increased in recent years triggering the question whether or not they are necessary.

It is believed that over 92% of Americans believed it is important to see their family doctor at least once in a year for a head-to-toe checkup up. Over 45 million Americans involve in this practice annually. As beneficial as this might be, there has been some critics who are skeptical that the cost that is involved is rather too much making them to question the necessity of these checkups.

Are Medical Checkups Really Necessary?

This won't be the first time this practice is receiving so much attention from the critics who suspect this might just be an avenue for doctors to make money. For a very long time, we believe that the annual visit to the doctor is a foundation to good health care. However, most recently, experts are now thinking that this visit might not be as necessary as we initially thought.

Why They Might Not Be Necessary?

Although this practice whereby people go for annual checkup is not going to change or reduce any time soon, experts who conducted research suggested that these annual visits don't make much difference in health outcomes. In simple words, their research shows that visiting the doctor once every year won't guarantee that you will not get sick or live longer.

  • False Positives

Another report suggested that there have been cases where annual checkup caused more harm than good. In these cases, people who have gone for medical checkup ended up with a "false positive" result. False positive report means that the doctor mistakenly thought they have a condition or disease that is not there. Although this problem only affects small percentage of over 200 million adults that embark on medical checkups annually, the result of such occurrence is emotional trauma, as well as monetary cost.

They are Still Very Much Necessary

There is a school of thought that believed that medical checkups are still very much necessary and must be undertaken by everybody. However, medical checkups don't necessary have to be done annually.

Even though medical exams can't reduce illness or death, they have been associated with reduced patient worry and can help to increase preventive care. Apart from these two benefits there are other reasons why you should embark on periodic medical examinations.

Some of the reasons why periodic medical checkups are necessary include:

  • To give patient peace of mind
  • As a primary preventive measure
  • Ability to detect disease with no apparent symptoms
  • To identify risk factors for common chronic diseases
  • Present an opportunity for doctor to educate people to promote healthy living
  • To update clinical data since the last checkup

How Often Should One Take Medical Examinations?

Proponents of annual medical examinations believed it is necessary; however, it doesn't have to be done annually. They proposed three types of medical visits which include:

1. Building Doctor-Patient Relationship

Patient should visit doctor for an initial visit and use it as an opportunity to establish a relationship with the doctor. This relationship will allow the patient to see the doctor for medical examinations on routine interval maybe every 3-5 years or thereabout in order to determine how to maintain the patient's overall health. However, the emphasis of the medical examination should be less on the exam or screening laboratory tests and more on medical and social history.

2. Adopt and Update Other Preventive Care

For annual medical examinations to be discarded, the proponents believed that other preventive care must be adopted by the patients. It does not end there; primary care doctors should also find other ways to proactively monitor their patient's attention to preventive care. This can be done through avenues such as waiting-room questionnaires, online risk-assessments and even a review of preventive care when the patient visits the doctor.

3. Adjustments by Payers

Finally, the proponents of medical checkups recommended that payers must make changes to reflect periodic instead of annual medical checkups. Additionally, government programs and health plans should no longer pay for annual visits instead focus on periodic visit by the patients.

The demise of yearly checkup will reduce the huge cost involved which has been cited as one of the main disadvantage of these checkups. It will also reduce "false positive" errors. Having said that, medical checkups are very necessary, whether you decide to do it annually or periodically, you should have it on the back of your mind that medical checkups are foundation to good health.


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