Caution: Annual Check Ups May Be Bad for Your Health

May 08

Throughout my career, I’ve been helping my public health clients encourage their consumer audiences to get tested, get screened, get vaccinated, and to “talk to their health care provider about” a host of procedures and options. The underlying theme has generally been the more (evidence-based) care the better. A few years back, as part of my wine-soaked bookclub with my gal pals, I read Shannon Brownlee‘s Overtreated, which opened my eyes to a whole new way of thinking—that more care is not necessarily better; in fact, it could make things worse.  And then the Cochrane Collaboration presented evidence that the good old annual check-up doesn’t make a difference when it comes to reducing morbidity or mortality — not to mention the high cost of the unnecessary care. Wait, WHAT?? How could that be? The estimated 44.4 million adults who receive an annual preventive health examination are not benefiting from it?  It turns out that US Preventative Service Task Force does not recommend annual checkups for asymptomatic adults and the Society of General Internal Medicine started making that same recommendation in 2013 as part of the Choosing Wisely campaign.

Experts believe that this bad news about annual check-ups is related to this phenomenon: the types of diseases/conditions commonly discovered in routine exams are either fairly benign or so far advanced that outcomes can’t be altered with treatment. Wow.

This news (at least news to me) has rocked my world. I can’t quite get my head around this finding that goes against common belief and practice (44.4 million!). If people stop getting annual check-ups, will they be less likely to build trusted relationships with their providers? Will there be less opportunities for those critical conversations about preventative behavior changes, e.g., better nutrition, increased physical activity, etc. And, as a communications professional, I can’t help but think how do we begin to message this to consumers?  I believe the answer is very cautiously. Depending on the messenger, the message might be misconstrued as limiting access to healthcare/socialized medicine/end of America as we know it…  I believe it can only come from that individual, trusted health care provider him or herself, who takes the time to explain that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

This entry was posted on Friday, May 8th, 2015 at 12:22 pm and is filed under Social Marketing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments are closed.