Tuesday, April 14, 2015

What about that annual physical?

On the subject of obsessing about your health, which I posted about last week: What about annual physicals?  Aren't they supposed to be good for you?

NPR ran this article last week as well, which, if I hadn't been so busy and distracted, I meant to blog about sooner.

Maybe You Should Skip That Annual Physical

Once again, keeping close tabs on your health doesn't necessarily have the benefit that you might think it would.

"When I, as a doctor, say I do not advocate for the annual physical, I feel like I'm attacking moms and apple pie," Mehrotra says. "It seems so intuitive and straightforward, and [it's] something that's been part of medicine for such a long time."

But he says randomized trials going all the way back to the 1980s just don't support it.
The problem is two-fold.  One, making everyone get physicals is expensive.  Two, it increases the risk of getting a false positive and sending someone in for more tests, some of which can be potentially harmful.

This article actually came at a time when I've been wondering whether to find another doctor.  My general practitioner has started requiring me to come in for a physical every year if I want my birth control renewed.  I need to stay on birth control, so they're basically forcing me into it, even though at my age pap smears are only recommended once every three years as long as the last one came back normal.  My feeling though is that I'm in my endocrinologist's office every three months, I get my labs done every year, and it seems redundant to add an annual physical on top of all that.

After reading this article, and finding there is some support in the industry for the idea of backing off on the annual physical, I'm thinking of looking for a new primary care physician.  I guess, "Are you going to make me come in for a physical every year?" will have to be one of the questions I ask.

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