Carmel, CA Researchers And A Government Task Force Says Physicals, Many Health Screenings Not Necessaryby Richard Kuehn on 10/18/12
The government and private insurance companies are rapidly transforming medical care as we know it as President Barack Obama's health care reform is rolled out. The focus is on providing better medical care for less money, not an easy combination to execute. One thing researchers are doing is focusing on medical tests and whether or not the cost-benefit ratio actually makes sense. I have mixed feelings about this because, on the one hand, I agree that we need to bring down medical costs. However, on the other hand, I fear that Medicare, Medi-Cal and private insurance companies may stop paying for many tests because they deem them too expensive. I think those types of decisions need to remain between a doctor and his or her patients. The most recent study I read calls into question the value of having regular checkups with your doctor. It's the first large scale review of existing studies and it concluded that annual physicals don't impact the rates of death and disease. Published by the Cochrane Collaboration, the report calls into question the way medical care exists in developed countries. It analyzed data on over 180,000 adults the U.S. and Europe, comparing statistics for those who had health screenings and those who didn't. Our own government has also come out and said that screening for colon or breast cancer in certain healthy people is fine, but many other tests aren't necessary. For instance, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force believes that for:
Hearing Loss Tests The evidence is insufficient to assess screening benefits in adults 50 years or older;
Skin Cancer Tests The evidence is insufficient to assess the benefit of whole-body skin exams in adults;
Cervical Cancer Tests This is recommended only for women between the ages of 21 and 65, and then only every three years a Pap smear should be taken;
Depression This is recommended only when adequate resources are available for accurate diagnosis and treatment;
Type 2 Diabetes This is recommended only in adults with blood pressure of 135/80 mm HG or higher; and
High Cholesterol This is recommended for men 35 years and older, or high-risk men between the ages of 20-35.
I disagree with some of these findings. I go in on a regular basis to get checked for skin cancer, for instance. On more than one occasion my doctor has found cancer in places where I didn't even notice it (on my back, where you can't see it, for instance). I hope our government and private insurance companies don't stop paying for tests that I myself and my physician believe are necessary. And I hope more follow-up is done to the recently released study. Another research report published in 2007 in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that checkups and some preventative studies not only helped patients physically, but also lessoned their worry. It was published by a well-respected professor of medicine, L. Ebony Boulware, from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore.