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Do patients need an annual physical?

What are the benefits and harms of periodic health exams and who should have one? Two experts debate these questions in a multicomponent educational article being published in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Periodic health exams, known as the annual physical when they occur yearly, are routine visits with physicians to discover asymptomatic illness and provide preventive care. These visits are valued by patients and are one of the most common reasons for patients to visit a physician. While some private insurance plans cover annual exams, the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) Foundation and the Society of General Internal Medicine (SGIM) have identified annual physicals as an example of low value care, or a practice that physicians and patients should question, as part of the Choosing Wisely campaign. In a new – ‘Beyond the Guidelines’ feature, experts from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School present opposing viewpoints for and against the annual physical.

All ‘Beyond the Guidelines’ papers are based on the Department of Medicine Grand Rounds at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and include print, video, and educational components. A list of topics is available at www.annals.org/grandrounds.

Should Patients Have Periodic Health Examinations?: Grand Rounds Discussion From Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, E.E. Reynolds, J. Heffernan, A. Mehrotra, and H. Libman, Annals of Internal Medicine, doi: 10.7326/M15-2885, published 1 February 2016.