NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 26, 2007

A lot of healthy Americans are going to the doctor for annual, preventive health visits, but there's scant evidence that these pilgrimages provide much benefit, according to a study by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School.

According to researchers:

  • Annual physicals and gynecological exams account for about 1 in 12 visits by adults to their doctors.
  • An estimated 20 percent of U.S. adults receive these routine check-ups at a cost of almost $8 billion a year.
  • This includes $350 million for unnecessary tests -- such as urine analyses and electrocardiograms -- that are not recommended by preventive health experts.

To muddle things a littler more, the study found that many patients were getting preventive care while seeing doctors for treatment of illnesses and chronic disease, not routine physicals.  Only about 20 percent of Pap smears, mammograms, prostate tests, cholesterol tests and counseling about exercise, weight loss, smoking cessation or nutrition took place during an annual exam.

Source: Shirley S. Wang "Time to Cross Off Annual Checkups From To-Do Lists?" Wall Street Journal, September 26, 2007.

For text:

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