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October 27, 2015

Is It Time to End Annual Physicals?

Summary:

Annual physicals, long taken on faith as valuable, can generate false positives that lead to unnecessary and dangerous treatment.

Photo Courtesy of Alex Proimos

A good story with the headline, “Do Annual Physicals Do More Harm Than Good?”, was posted recently on CCN, written by Nadia Kounang. Click here to read the full article.

This is not a new question about annual physicals. Leading physicians have been asking this question for decades. Yet the public and professional wellness vendors persist in having blind and uninformed faith in what is an expensive and potentially harmful ritual.

Dr. Ateev Mehrotra, an associate professor of healthcare policy and medicine at Harvard Medical School, says, “This specialized visit hasn’t proven anything in terms of staying healthful.”

He further says annual physicals “…make sense in theory, but it hasn’t borne out in reality.”

According to the story, “More doctors are saying the annual physical is unnecessary – and can even be harmful.”

Personally, in my career running benefit plans for large corporations, I’ve seen first-hand numerous people seriously harmed by annual physicals, through false positives on unneeded tests that resulted in medical harm to employees. Plus, such false positives cause stunning and unnecessary anxiety, as in “we-said-you-had-cancer-but-oops-my-bad.”

This is a good time to take a hard look at this ritual and consider if precious health dollars could be used better elsewhere.

If your wellness vendor is recommending annual physicals for your employees, you should drop that vendor ASAP. Period.

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About the Author

Tom Emerick is president of Emerick Consulting and cofounder of EdisonHealth and Thera Advisors.  Emerick’s years with Wal-Mart Stores, Burger King, British Petroleum and American Fidelity Assurance have provided him with an excellent blend of experience and contacts.

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