Much of what doctors do is a mystery. Nowhere is this ambiguity as great as in the routine checkup or the “healthy visit.” If we have a cough, we know what to expect — the doctor will ask questions about how the illness started, what we are coughing up, whether we have a fever and then will listen to our chests and maybe order an xray. But what is the doctor supposed to do when we’re feeling completely fine and want a general checkup? Many people are surprised to learn that just as clinical trials are done to study new drugs for cancer, doctors and scientists rigorously study approaches to preventive health care, from cancer screenings and vaccines to even whether and how to best counsel people about weight loss. What’s more, professional medical organizations and other respected institutions actually evaluate all of these studies and make recommendations about which preventive health services doctors should provide healthy patients.
Unfortunately, these recommendations are written for doctors and often do not get out to the public in a consistent, comprehensive, accessible way. Occasionally we hear that mammograms are recommended for all women ages 40 and older or that people over 60 should get vaccinated against shingles but these messages are few and far between.
That’s why a good friend of mine, Gaurav Singal, and I have developed a simple online tool that helps you know at-a-glance which preventive health services are recommended for you. After you answer basic questions about your health, the tool provides you with a personalized preventive health care checklist that you can print out and take to the doctor. With this checklist in hand, you can partner with your doctor to make sure you get the full benefit of those screening, prevention, and counseling services that are proven to help people like you and are recommended by the experts.
Right now the tool is its “beta testing” stages. We are hoping that you can give us feedback on the checklist tool so that we can make it even better. After reading the disclaimers below, click the link to get started! Send us your feedback by submitting a comment to this blog entry or, better yet, by filling out a simple survey accessible through the second link below.
Disclaimers: The checklist tool is based on the guidelines from the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), which are written for doctors. It is not meant to be a substitute for medical advice from a health professional. You should consult a physician before taking any action suggested to you by your personalized checklist.