The data argues against an annual physical, but is it still needed?

I’ve written in the past that the routine physical exam does not have data to back up its efficacy.

Family physician Ben Brewer (via the WSJ Health Blog) has a different take, saying that it provides time to build relationships, which can have “a beneficial impact on health quality, costs and outcomes that goes way beyond disease detection and health screening.”

There are some variables that cannot be measured in a study, and perhaps most importantly, “an annual examination allows time to build a physician-patient relationship in a way that a 10- or 15-minute office visit doesn’t.”

Indeed, I use the annual physical to re-connect with patients, and to consolidate the plethora of screening modalities that are currently recommended. Without this dedicated time, it’s easy for routine guidance to slip through the cracks of short, acute care visits.