Public Expectations for Annual Physical Examination and Testing. Ann Intern Med. 2002;136:I21. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-136-9-200205070-00002
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 2002;136(9):I21.
Guidelines for preventive health care recommend selected medical examinations and laboratory tests for adults at specific time intervals. The guidelines, which are drafted by expert medical panels after review of available research results, do not recommend comprehensive yearly checkups. However, many healthy American adults see doctors for yearly checkups.
The researchers wanted to learn what American adults think about yearly physical checkups and what they think should be done during these checkups. They also wanted to know whether these desires for checkups and for the specific things to be done during checkups depend on how much they would have to pay.
1023 U.S. adults selected by random-digit telephone dialing in Boston, Denver, or San Diego.
Using a standard set of questions, a telephone interviewer asked patients whether they agreed with the following statement: “In addition to seeing my regular doctor when I am sick or for chronic medical problems, I need an annual physical exam.” The survey also asked patients whether the yearly checkup should include specific parts of the physical examinations (for example, listening to the heart), tests (for example, taking a complete blood count), and counseling (for example, advising about alcohol use). The study participants in Boston and San Diego were asked whether they would still want a yearly checkup if they had to pay for it.
Two thirds of the participants said they thought yearly checkups were necessary. They expressed a strong desire for many parts of the examination, tests, and counseling. The adult participants were more interested in many nonrecommended yearly tests (for example, blood counts and tests of kidney function) than they were in many recommended tests (for example, mammography and colon cancer screening tests). Not surprisingly, the more people had to pay for yearly checkups, the less they wanted them.
The beliefs of these adults in Denver, Boston, and San Diego may not be similar to beliefs of people living elsewhere in the United States. Moreover, the study included only English-speaking adults.
Many Americans think that yearly physical checkups are necessary. In addition, they appear to want many nonrecommended tests during yearly checkups more than they want some recommended tests. There is a need to better educate Americans about the proven and unproven benefits of yearly checkups.
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