OK, admit it. You either see your doctor every year, or you feel guilty about not doing so.Though no major U.S. group advocates the annual visits, they've somehow become part and parcel of our daily lives. Everyone knows it's true, and doesn't hesitate to remind you. Your mother you expect. But, when the mailman starts to chide you for missing your annual visit, you have a right to feel put-upon.
So, what about it? Is an annual visit just what the doctor ordered?
Well, maybe not...
Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the RAND Corporation say the yearly treks may be unnecessary. And hugely expensive. The research looked at data from 2002-2004. They found about 63 million U.S. adults made annual routine visits, accounting for a total cost, in 2004, of $7.8 billion dollars. This compared with a cost of $8.1 spent on all breast cancer treatment during the same year.
The issue is not the need of obtaining routine diagnostic exams, such as pap smears and cholesterol screening. The question is the viability, and the necessity, of obtaining these screenings only at an annual physician's visit. The researchers question whether there is a more practical and cost-effective manner in which to receive routine tests.
Dr. Ateev Mehrotra, the study's lead author, says, "Most patients believe they should see a doctor every year for a physical in which the doctor will examine them from head to toe and order lots of tests. There are many doctors who disagree. Physicians need to reach greater consensus on what we should advise patients to do."
So, what should you do until they sort it all out? Hmm... Maybe you'd better schedule an appointment with your doctor to talk it all out - or, better yet, try leading a healthy, active life and you may find a simple wave at the grocery store is all the time you really need with your doc after all.To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To read more about leading a healthy lifestyle, see this from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.