Every day it seems we hear about a new way to shave time off our busy days. Drive-thru coffee. Banking by phone. DVRing shows to skip through commercials. Self-checkout groceries. Email exchanges in place of real-time meetings. And usually I’m a fan. Added bonus: These things often let me avoid socializing.
But when I heard a new study about how I can save yet another hour or two a year by skipping my annual doctor’s visit, even I had to draw the line.
A latest study—published in the Cochrane Library from The Cochrane Collaboration—says those routine checkups don’t actually matter—they don’t reduce the risk of dying from serious illnesses like cancer and heart disease. Researchers even say there are potential negative implications, for example diagnosis and treatment of conditions that might never have led to any symptoms of disease or shortened life.
“From the evidence we've seen, inviting patients to general health checks is unlikely to be beneficial,” lead researcher Lasse Krogsbøll of The Nordic Cochrane Centre in Copenhagen, Denmark, said in a statement. “One reason for this might be that doctors identify additional problems and take action when they see patients for other reasons.”
I saw my primary care doctor just the other week for my annual checkup. And though I’ve been to my doctor’s office numerous times over the past year, I haven’t actually seen her. When I had to come in for some sort of illness or infection, my primary care doctor was never available. I always went to see some other doctor in the practice who didn’t know me or my medical history. And by the way, those visits lasted about five minutes and resulted in some sort of antibiotics.
Seeing my doctor actually made me feel happy—it was like seeing another member of my family. She knows me well, she points out my flaws and she then tries to fix them.
The appointment gave me tests I normally wouldn’t have that are important for routine health—cholesterol (significantly better than last year, I must add); other blood work; blood pressure; women’s screenings, to name a few.
My blood work, by the way, identified vitamin deficiencies that could have severely threatened my basic health if it wasn’t addressed over the next year. Did she save my life? Not likely. But I can thank her for an additional four pills I have to take daily.
But most importantly, the most time spent during the appointment was just talking to my physician—subjects from daily life and stress levels to previous health woes and my medications to alcohol and tobacco intake.
For people who don’t often get sick or go to the doctor, it’s a way to take some control of your health care by talking to your doctor, asking questions or just getting some piece of mind on your health. And that's time well spent—even if it does mean real socializing.