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That Annual Check-Up Is Worth It


The traditional annual physical exam, or "periodic health evaluation," delivers preventive care and decreases worry for patients, and justifies the costs, according to a new report.

"The periodic health evaluation has been practiced for decades with conflicting evidence regarding its value," Dr. L. Ebony Boulware stated. "This is the first study to systematically review the evidence."

Boulware, from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, and associates analyzed 50 articles to investigate the benefits and harms of the periodic health evaluation with regard to patient outcomes and health care costs.

Several studies indicated that having a periodic health evaluation was associated with getting a Pap smear, having cholesterol checked, and being screened for colorectal cancer, but showed mixed effects on other preventive measures, the team reports in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Other studies they looked at showed that a periodic health exam had a slight effect on cholesterol levels, a moderate effect on health habits, patient attitudes, health status, and body mass index, and strong effects on blood pressure, the report indicates.

Five studies revealed the periodic health evaluation to have mixed effects on all economic and clinical outcomes, the researchers say.

"We think this provides evidence that the continued practice of performing periodic health evaluations is justified," Boulware said.

SOURCE: Annals of Internal Medicine, February 20, 2007.

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