For asymptomatic adults without a chronic medical condition, mental health problem, or other health concern, don’t routinely perform annual general health checks that include a comprehensive physical examination and lab testing. Adults should talk with a trusted doctor about how often they should be seen to maintain an effective doctor-patient relationship, attend to preventive care, and facilitate timely recognition of new problems.
Visit intervals should be based on specific concerns, chronic conditions, or prevention strategies based on the best available evidence, tailored to age and risk. A general health check may help to foster a trusting relationship between a doctor and patient. It may also provide an opportunity for preventive counseling and screening. However, it is not always necessary to have a general health check every year. In contrast to office visits for acute illness, specific evidence-based preventive strategies, or chronic care management such as treatment of high blood pressure, annually scheduled general health checks, including the “health maintenance” visit, have not been shown to reduce morbidity, hospitalizations, or mortality, and may increase the frequency of non-evidence based testing.
These items are provided solely for informational purposes and are not intended as a substitute for consultation with a medical professional. Patients with any specific questions about the items on this list or their individual situation should consult their physician.
An ad hoc committee of the Society of General Internal Medicine (SGIM) was impaneled, taking advantage of the clinical expertise of members from the Clinical Practice Committee and Evidence-Based Medicine Task Force within the Society. Members of the ad hoc committee were then solicited to determine possible topics for consideration. The topics chosen were selected to meet the goals of the Choosing Wisely campaign, utilizing the unique clinical perspective of members of the Society in ambulatory general medicine as well as hospital-based practice. The final topics were selected by a vote of committee members based on the strength of the existing evidence, the unique standing members of the Society have in addressing the clinical topics selected, as well as contributions the recommendations would make in terms of patient safety, quality and economic impact. The final recommendations were approved by the governing Council of SGIM.
For SGIM’s disclosure and conflict of interest policies, please visit www.sgim.org.
Krogsboll LT, Jorgensen KJ, Gronhoj Larsen C, Gotzsche PC. General health checks in adults for reducing morbidity and mortality from disease: Cochrane systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2012;345:e7191.
Boulware LE, Marinopoulos S, Phillips KA, Hwang CW, Maynor K, Merenstein D, Wilson RF, Barnes GJ, Bass EB, Powe NR, Daumit GL. Systematic review: the value of the periodic health evaluation. Ann Intern Med. 2007 Feb 20;146(4):289-300.
United States Preventive Services Task Force. Guide to clinical preventative services: an assessment of the effectiveness of 169 interventions. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins, 1989.
Canadian Task Force on the Periodic Health Examination. The periodic health examination. CMAJ. 1979;121(9):1193-254.