Patients Rarely Get Critical Preventative Services During Checkups

Every time a patient goes into the doctor’s office for his or her regular physical check-up, the doctor has a list of preventative services recommended to perform on the patient.

A recent study showed that barely half of the recommended services get performed as prescribed because there just is not enough time in the day.

The preventative services include screenings, tests and conversations that are done at a certain time in the patient’s life. A 42-year-old woman will have a different list of preventative services than an 80-year-old man, for example. On average there are fewer than six services, such as screenings and counseling per patient, but they are not all done – not by a long shot.

As few as 12 percent of the patients received all of the services that they should have expected for prevention, according to the study.

During a study, researchers listened in on almost 300 visits to family physicians and general internists over the course of about three years. They learned that patients receive only about half of the preventative services.

“If you put it into context and you think about how little the incentives and the structure of the U.S. health system support prevention, it’s probably a pretty good rate,” said Jennifer Elston Lafata, the co-leader of Cancer Prevention and Control at the Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. “You have to remember that a 100 percent rate is likely not feasible or even desirable, once you consider patient preferences and medical needs.”

If another medical concern pops up during a routine physical exam, it is naturally going to take precedence over a checklist because it is an immediate need. Then, time constraints kick in and the physician and the patient rarely catch up to get to everything on the list, Lafata said.

The study included patients from age 50 to 80. A full 93 percent of patients who were due for a colorectal cancer screening were given one, making it the most consistent of the preventative services. Counseling about aspirin use was the conversation that most often fell between the cracks. Those talks happened only about 18 percent of the time.

The doctor visits in the study tended to last less than a half hour. The visits that lasted longer tended to be more comprehensive.

Preventative care breaks down into three basic categories: counseling, screenings and immunizations. Screenings happened about 74 percent of the time in the study. Counseling happened about 45 percent of the time and immunizations happened only about 34 percent of the time, according to the study. If all preventative care is not addressed during annual physicals, many serious and oftentimes life-threatening conditions, can go undetected.

Robert Briskman is a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer and Chicago medical malpractice attorney with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878 or visit http://www.briskmanandbriskman.com/.

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