One-Fifth of U.S. Adults Get Preventive Health Exams

Yearly exams cost health care system $7.8 billion

MONDAY, Sept. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Approximately 44.4 million U.S. adults receive a preventive health exam each year at a total cost to the health care system of almost $8 billion, despite the fact that major clinical organizations do not recommend them, according to research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine on Sept. 24.

Ateev Mehrotra, M.D., of the University of Pittsburgh, analyzed data from 8,413 primary care visits between 2002 and 2004 to estimate the annual rate of preventive health exams (PHEs) and preventive gynecologic exams (PGEs) based on patient demographics, the frequency of preventive services provided and the total cost of these visits at Medicare reimbursements rates.

An estimated 44.4 million adults underwent a PHE each year and 19.4 million women underwent a PGE. Older patients and those with health insurance were more likely to receive a preventive exam. Preventive services were performed in more than half of all PHEs, and 83 percent of PGEs, though the majority of total preventive services occurred at other visits. The total cost associated with PHEs and PGEs was $7.8 billion.

"Our findings provide a foundation for continuing national deliberations about whether adults should see physician for these examinations and about their appropriate content," the authors conclude.

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