Tune in to our radio show on your local public radio station, or sign up for the podcast and listen at your leisure. Here’s what it’s about:

The annual checkup with a physical exam has been a ritual of health care for decades. But does it make sense for your doctor to do an exam if you are feeling quite well and have no symptoms?

Some experts suggest that the annual physical does not save lives, though it may lead to additional tests and health care interventions. How can we be wise about the tests we undergo? What is the advantage of seeing our doctor regularly, even if we don’t get a checkup? Will technology make the doctor visit obsolete?

Guests: Christine K. Cassel, MD, MACP, is president and CEO of the American Board of Internal Medicine and the ABIM Foundation. She is board certified in internal medicine and geriatric medicine. She talks with us about Choosing Wisely, a program the American Board of Internal Medicine has created for both doctors and patients. It is designed to help people determine which diagnostic and treatment procedures really make sense. The organization has published over 90 suggestions of which diagnostics and procedures may be unnecessary. Click on “Choosing Wisely” above to get the list.

Danielle Ofri, MD, PhD, is a physician at Bellevue Hospital, the oldest public hospital in country. She writes about medicine and the doctor-patient connection for The New York Times and other publications. Dr. Ofri is co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of the Bellevue Literary Review, the first literary journal to arise from a medical setting. Her books include: Medicine in Translation: Journeys with my Patients; Incidental Findings: Lessons from my Patients in the Art of Medicine; and Singular Intimacies: Becoming a Doctor at Bellevue. Her article, “Making a Case for the Medical Check-Up,” appeared in The New York Times. The photo of Dr. Ofri is by Joon Park. Her website is http://danielleofri.com/

Eric Topol, MD, is Chief Academic Officer of Scripps Health in San Diego. He also is a Scripps Health cardiologist and director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute, also in San Diego. Dr. Topol is widely credited for leading the Cleveland Clinic to become the #1 center for heart care before his move to Scripps. He also serves as Professor of Genomics at The Scripps Research Institute and Chief Academic Officer of Scripps Health. His book, The Creative Destruction of Medicine, was published in 2012. In 2013, he additionally took on the Editor-in-Chief role at Medscape. His websites include www.STSIweb.org and www.scripps.org

The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free for four weeks after the date of broadcast. After that time has passed, digital downloads are available for $2.99. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.

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  1. Lomarican

    I always enjoy your show and rely on all the outstanding information you and your guests provide BUT, with all due respect, the last doctor interviewed on this program just made me shake my head. Smart phones, mobile devices, internet connections, etc. This may all work in the big city and for those with money but honestly, many, many Americans can barely afford the basics of life, let alone high speed internet service and smart phones.
    The government cannot even manage to repair, let alone improve, the country’s basic infrastructure so I can’t imagine who will pay for expanding currently non-existing internet access to the huge areas of America currently without it. I live 15 miles from an urban area and yet, where I live, only a handful of people have high speed internet access. Additionally, we have virtually no options for medical care other than that offered by the local monopoly.

  2. MHz

    Haven’t been to the doctor in years. They want to dig around your body and empty your pockets while many (not all, there are a few ethical doctors out there) are blissfully enjoying the fruits of your financial labour to live a life of luxury. It is ludicrous. I chose not to go because 2 members of my immediate family have chronic illnesses and they must go.
    I was getting very sick of the expense. One of our current specialists for our child has her on scads of meds. For crohn’s, most are ineffective, and we waste well over 100 grand in hospital procedures and medicine per annulment. Insurance covers about 80%. We would be better off not working and on welfare because then we would receive benefits to keep our child and her father alive. What a nightmare this healthcare crap of a system is.

  3. Bruce H.

    Regarding regular check-ups, I’m reminded of my 100 year old father’s experience in a hospital that had converted to using hospitalists. I’m sure these people are well educated, professional and dedicated, but each one would come in on their shift and know nothing about my dad except what had happened during this particular hospital visit. They had no idea what the “normal” dad was like, so when he had a hard time giving good answers to their questions, they didn’t know whether that was normal or not – or was he hard of hearing, did he not have his hearing aid in, was he always confused or was this unusual?
    I cringe to think how these exams would have gone if my brother or I had not been there to provide background information about his health history as well as to tell them what parts of his behavior were unusual or normal.
    Interestingly, I could literally see his primary care physician’s office from his hospital window but in several multiple-day stays during my dad’s last year, his “regular” physician never came and apparently the hospitalists never communicated with him.

  4. SDC

    I had a thorough physical including chest X-ray in 2011 after not having had one in a couple of years. The X-ray indicated the possibility of an aortic aneurysm, which was confirmed with a subsequent CT scan. I was treated with vascular surgery to insert stents in the aorta and am in fine shape now. The aneurysm was asymptomatic and would not have been detected without the imaging.

  5. Lynn

    On your radio show you mention that we can find a link for medical tests that are no longer required or provide little benefit. I can not find the link. Please advise. Thanks. Lynn
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: Lynn, please click on the words Choosing Wisely in the description of Dr. Cassel’s credentials. It will take you to the list of organizations, each of which has constructed its own list of tests/interventions that should not be routine.
    Here’s the link: http://www.abimfoundation.org/Initiatives/Choosing-Wisely.aspx

  6. Faith K.

    This is an interesting subject. I am 73 yrs. old. the only meds I take is synthroid. I have my blood tested 2xs per year with checkup to have my throat palpated (very important to detect nodules.) Also I go once a year for a physical complete with blood work. My GP sites at a computer palpates my stomach, B/P, pulse and that’s it. Physicals used to be more involved. To make a point I feel the blood work tells it all and no need for the physical except in my case with the endocrinologist exam. thanks Faith

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