How many times did you hear Democratic candidates brag about the new wellness exams for seniors during the last election? All the while claiming that ObamaCare is going to eliminate unnecessary care and make health delivery more efficient?
The results of [the Cochrane review by Krogsbøll et al] are consistent with a previous systematic review by Boulware et al that also evaluated the benefits and harms of general health checks. [...] The authors of both reviews reported that general health checks had no effect on mortality, disability and hospitalizations compared with usual care. [...]
How should practitioners use the findings of Krogsbøll et al? Although available trials have limitations, there is no convincing evidence that general health checks are beneficial. Since patients who seek or are willing to undergo routine screening are generally healthier than those who are not (indicating that general health checks are least likely to reach those who could benefit the most), and because most people do not receive interventions that are known to be beneficial, general health checks do not appear to be a wise use of scarce healthcare resources. Heeding the Canadian recommendations (made more than 30 years ago) to abandon routine health checks would save money that could be better used by population-level interventions supported by effective health policy, such as the campaigns to reduce dietary sodium in Finland and the United Kingdom.
From a Cochrane Library review editorial via Austin Frakt.