Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Women's Health

Font Size

Do You Still Need an Annual Doctor’s Visit?

By Jennifer Dobner
WebMD Health News

July 29, 2014 -- If it’s true that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, then it seems like seeing the doctor for an annual physical exam ought to play a major role in keeping healthy people healthy.

Yet most doctors now say it’s time to rethink the notion of a yearly physical, a fixture in U.S. medicine since the 1940s.

Possible Downsides of Yearly Checkups

Studies done over at least 30 years have shown that for healthy adults -- those who don’t have a long-term illness or take daily prescription medications -- annual wellness checks don’t lower the number of deaths. They also don’t cut the rates of disease-related deaths, hospitalizations, or the cost of care.

“There’s not a [ton] of evidence that going in annually, if you’re healthy, prevents bad things from happening,” says Thomas Miller, chief medical officer for the University of Utah’s Hospitals and Clinics.

Instead, studies from multiple researchers found the annual exams can lead to the overdiagnosis of some conditions, overtreatment, and to invasive, costly tests.

That’s exactly what happened to the 85-year-old father of Michael B. Rothberg, MD, MPH, a doctor at the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Value-Based Care Research, Medicine Institute. Rothberg wrote about the experience last month in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“The $50,000 Physical” describes the string of medical treatments ordered for his father after an annual physical identified a suspected aortic aneurysm. He didn’t have that, but a CT scan showed a lesion on his liver, which was suspected to be cancerous. A biopsy found Rothberg’s father had a single benign tumor, but he nearly bled to death from the biopsy.

And yet, as Rothberg says, the practice of annual checkups persists.

That’s in part because some doctor payments are tied to the practice, and also because patients have come to expect them each year. Data from a national 2010 survey found that 21% of medical visits were for preventive care. Having a general medical exam was the No. 2 reason people went to the doctor.

“It’s ingrained into our culture,” Miller says. “There’s a belief among some that it makes sense, so there’s always going to be a pool of folks who cherish the annual physical.”

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

hands on abdomen
Test your knowledge.
womans hand on abdomen
Are you ready for baby?
birth control pills
Learn about your options.
Is it menopause or something else?
woman in bathtub
bp app on smartwatch and phone
estrogen gene

Send yourself a link to download the app.

Loading ...

Please wait...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.


Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Blood pressure check
hot water bottle on stomach
Attractive young woman standing in front of mirror