“If you are generally in good health, you may not need an annual physical,” says Dr. Messoline. “It’s best to talk to your doctor to determine how often he or she would want to see you based on your individual health needs and goals.
“Of course, if you have a particular health issue that you feel needs attention — such as if you’re sick or have symptoms that should be evaluated — you should talk to your doctor to discuss your concern,” he says.
Dr. Messoline explains that several studies on the effectiveness of annual physicals in healthy people have not demonstrated better health outcomes or reduced mortality rates in this population.
“Research has not proven that a scheduled yearly visit to the doctor can make a healthy person healthier,” he says. “In fact, annual physicals can increase the likelihood of unnecessary tests and screenings on healthy people with no risk factors. There is also an increased chance of false-positive results that can cause anxiety and unnecessary follow-up tests and treatments.”
When to schedule a checkup with your doctor
Dr. Messoline does stress the importance of scheduling a baseline checkup — also called a preventive care or wellness visit — if you haven’t done so in a few years. “You and your doctor can determine together how often you need to go in for specific screenings, tests and immunizations based on your age, level of health and individual risk factors.”
In addition, he suggests scheduling a visit with your doctor any time for any of the following:
- When you are already sick
- When you have a symptom that could indicate illness
- To manage an ongoing or chronic condition
- To check on effects of a new medication
- For prenatal care
- For lifestyle issues such as family planning, STD prevention and healthy eating — especially important for young adults
- For other reasons that are based on your individual health needs
- If you haven’t had health care for a long period of time
At Sharp Rees-Stealy, we want to empower you to make well-informed choices about your health. That’s why we’ve made it our priority to support our doctors in helping you make smart and effective decisions by participating in Choosing Wisely®.
Choosing Wisely, an initiative of the ABIM Foundation, educates patients and doctors on selecting the most effective treatment available and avoiding unproductive, costly procedures. Sharp Rees-Stealy is the only medical group in Southern California to participate in this national campaign.