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Annual Medical Checkups May Not Make Sense

Aired 7/7/14 on KPBS News.

Annual physicals exams have long been a staple of the American health care system, but new research suggests they're not very effective.

Annual physicals exams have long been a staple of the American health care system, but new research suggests they're not very effective.

The independent Cochrane Collaboration reviewed 14 different studies. Some of the study participants had annual physicals, while the others didn’t.

The review revealed no difference in the number of overall deaths. In addition, physicals were not associated with fewer hospital stays or fewer doctor visits.

Dr. Sherry Franklin, past president of the San Diego County Medical Society, said more doctors are realizing that physicals are not one size fits all.

“We focus on what their issues are, rather than just finding problems," Franklin said. "We don’t just order tests anymore, because it’s been a year and you should have your blood chemistry checked. We check it if there’s a reason.”

The Cochrane review suggests the array of tests ordered during a standard physical can lead to unnecessary treatments.

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