Periodic Health Visits: An Alternative Approach to the “Annual Physical”
For years, Canadians have been accustomed to a yearly “check-up” with their family
physician in order to maintain a good bill of health. It was thought that this yearly visit
and “once over” would reliably screen for illnesses that could potentially already be
present or effectively prevent future illnesses from occurring. Typically, patients would
have a full physical exam as well as have a full panel of bloodwork ordered.
Unfortunately, a systematic review of multiple randomized trials has clearly
demonstrated that this methodology and approach is not effective at decreasing the risk
of death due to major illnesses such as heart disease and cancer.
The Canadian Taskforce on Preventive Healthcare (CTPH) has recently stated:
“The traditional annual physical exam of asymptomatic adults is not supported by
evidence of effectiveness and may result in harm. It should not be a regular activity”
Choosing Wisely Canada now has the following recommendations:
1. Don’t do annual screening blood tests unless directly indicated by the risk profile
of your patient
2. Don’t do annual physical exams on asymptomatic adults with no significant risk
Thankfully, a more effective approach has been recommended by the Canadian Task
Force called the “Periodic Health Visit” or the “Periodic Preventive Health Check”. This
visit is more specifically tailored to the individual needs of each patient and has shown
the greatest usefulness in patients who are 65 or older. If you have questions or would
like to learn more about this type of visit, feel free to schedule a call with one of our
doctors or visit the links below.