A PDF of the full version of the article, published in Polish Archives of Internal Medicine, can be accessed free of charge here.
Despite being ubiquitous in primary care, there is no accepted consensus on the definition and main components of health checks. They range from periodic health evaluations with a general physician, through the screening and diagnostic tests derived from these visits, to broader screening programs.
Health checks may promote a fluid patient–provider relationship, improve the delivery of some preventive
measures, and reduce the patient’s anxiety. However, they can also expose patients to overdiagnosis
and unnecessary interventions.
Research on the benefits, harms, and cost-effectiveness of health checks is limited. As a consequence, health checks and screening programs are implemented in several countries and supported by national scientific societies based chiefly on their potential benefits on surrogate outcomes. There is also substantial variability regarding the target population (eg, initial age), tests, or intervals.
We call for a rigorous assessment of the net effect of all health checks, taking into consideration common biases (eg, sticky-diagnosis and slippery-linkage biases), patient-important outcomes, potential adverse events, cost-effectiveness, as well as equity and feasibility of the proposed programs.