WE all make resolutions and promises to live healthier and better lives, to make the world a better place. Not having my annual physical is one small way I can help reduce health care costs — and save myself time, worry and a worthless exam.
Around 45 million Americans are likely to have a routine physical this year — just as they have for many years running. A poke here, a listen there, a few tubes of blood, maybe an X-ray, a few reassuring words about diet, exercise and not smoking from the doctor, all just to be sure everything is in good working order. Most think of it as the human equivalent of a 15,000-mile checkup and fluid change, which can uncover hidden problems and ensure longer engine life.
There is only one problem: From a health perspective, the annual physical exam is basically worthless.
In 2012, the Cochrane Collaboration, an international group of medical researchers who systematically review the world’s biomedical research, analyzed 14 randomized controlled trials with over 182,000 people followed for a median of nine years that sought to evaluate the benefits of routine, general health checkups — that is, visits to the physician for general health and not prompted by any particular symptom or complaint.