The one thing most people expect when they go to see their doctor: the physical exam. The physical exam is meant to help identify and prevent different ailments by inspecting different aspects of the human body. It has become a routine and expected part of the doctor/patient relationship.
But how helpful is it, really?
Over the last few years, many studies have suggested that the physical exam actually doesn’t do much in contributing to a patient’s long-term health. Just a few days ago another study came out showing the in-office physical exam to be of little value in those without physical complaints.
Though the value of the physical exam is questionable, there is still strong support for screenings/risk factor assessments:
This is why WellnessFX stresses individualized preventive care. Having access to your numbers and being able to talk to a practitioner about a plan specific to your needs can ensure that your time isn’t being wasted.
It should be noted, however, that the physical exam may have benefits that are hard to capture in formal studies. “Not to be underestimated is the value of maintaining the doctor-patient relationship, as well as counseling for life stresses and personal issues that come up,” Dr. Goroll, a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, said. “A lot of behavioral and mental health problems emerge during the annual visit.”
Still, there are apparent insufficiencies in using the physical exam as the only method of preventive care. Even further, being able to see a doctor to receive a physical is becoming more and more difficult. A recent article in Bloomberg recognized that the doctor shortage (once limited to rural areas) is spreading to large population centers like Las Vegas. With 2 million residents, it can take six months for a patient to schedule a simple check-up with a doctor.
And it’s not going to stop there. Nationwide, the current estimated shortage is 13,000 doctors. And guess what? That’s expected to rise to 130,000 within 12 years as the population ages and the Affordable Care Act goes into full effect. So whether or not the physical exam is beneficial or not, soon it may be too scarce for the question to matter.
“I live in Massachusetts,” our Medical Director Doctor Murdoc Khaleghi says, “where we have Romney-care (the precursor to Obama-care) and the influx of newly insured has only increased wait-times for primary care physicians further by adding new patients without new doctors. This will likely be a trend nationwide.”
Maybe it’s time to take control of your own health.