People make appointments to see their doctor for many different reasons. Some only go to the doctor when they are experiencing a new problem or concern and are looking for a specific diagnosis or treatment. Others see their doctor at more regular intervals for ongoing follow-up of a chronic problem or disease. For many people, however, the frequency of office visits for a regular health maintenance checkup is not clear. The requirements are different for annual medical physicals, prescription drug follow-ups, prenatal, childhood checkups, and well-woman examinations. Some people expect to have a yearly checkup, and others feel that a checkup once every two to three years is sufficient.
A Checkup: How Often?
In the past, most medical groups advocated an annual health exam. However, more recently, the American Medical Association and other similar groups have moved away from the yearly exam. They now suggest that medical checkups be referred to as Periodic Health Assessments or Examinations and that they be performed every five years (for adults over 18) until age 40 and every one to three years thereafter. The requirements are for more frequent evaluations for those taking prescription medications. Most people younger than 40 years of age are generally free from diseases that could be diagnosed by physical examination alone. In this age group, health problems usually show specific signs or symptoms that would prompt you to seek medical attention. Also, a lot of the testing that was done routinely in the past has not been found to be cost effective and, in some cases, causes unnecessary additional testing and anxiety. Purpose of the periodic health examination As primary prevention To identify risk factors for common chronic diseases To detect disease that has no apparent symptoms (secondary prevention) As a way for the doctor to counsel people to promote healthy behavior To update clinical data since last checkup To enhance the relationship between you and your doctor.