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What is an Executive Physical Examination?

Women over forty are recommended to have a mammogram each year.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 05 April 2014
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The average annual physical includes things like evaluation for common problems such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure, kidney function, and the like. Women also may undergo yearly gynecological exams in conjunction with a yearly physical, and if they’re over forty, they probably will routinely have a mammogram each year. As women age, doctors may also require things like bone density tests. A few tests change as we go from childhood to young adulthood, and then change again as we reach certain ages. These annual exams may take about half hour to an hour, and a little time more if we need blood work tests or scans of any body areas.

A fairly recent trend in the world of medicine is to offer people what is called an executive physical examination. The executive physical examination is a much more intensive evaluation of a person’s potential for disease. It may include full body scans, blood testing for numerous conditions that are rare, and extensive time spent with a doctor going over medical history, and discussing any issues that the patient might otherwise not mention in a standard physical; even minor symptoms may be viewed as relevant and deserve scrutiny. Though time on these exams vary, they can last anywhere from four to eight hours to up to two days, and you’ll pay a hefty price for them.

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While a few things in an executive physical examination might be covered by your insurance, expect that the cost of most tests, to the tune of many thousands of dollars will come out of pocket. This is why the term “executive” is applied to this type of physical. It’s top notch, luxury medicine affordable by only a few rather than by most. But some who undergo the procedure advocate strongly for its use. Not only does it give you plenty of time with a doctor, but through scans and blood work, you may be screened for over 200 diseases that aren’t normally looked for on a standard physical.

Some doctors are concerned that the executive physical examination may not always be the best idea, just as there is now some question about the value of full body scans. Some tests for rare diseases or conditions aren’t completely reliable, which means you may be diagnosed with having a condition you actually don’t have, or a test can fail to provide accurate diagnostic measures. If you do test positive for any rare condition, you will probably undergo further testing.

Others say that the executive physical examination is incredibly comprehensive and provides patients with a great opportunity to have illness diagnosed just as it starts. Early diagnosis of a condition can mean that people are more likely to get early treatment, which can result in cures or management of conditions that may be too late to treat or reverse by the time they manifest symptoms.

There are now numerous clinics, usually attached to major hospitals, that offer an executive physical examination to patients. Such clinics like the Mayo Clinic, which was one of the early competitors in this field, stand by the potential health benefits available to patients who undergo these physicals. You can find clinics that offer these services by checking online, but you might want to speak with your general physical first about the potential value versus cost of these extensive exams.

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Discuss this Article

anon258439
Post 6

I had an executive exam this year and I was found to have a rare disease, which, fortunately, was diagnosed early. I think if you can have more tests done and if doctors can spend longer time on you, why not?

anon240843
Post 5

Executive physicals get their name because it is a physical most companies require (or at least at one time) executives to go through when they begin working for a company. It is usually covered by the company and is a way to make sure the executive's health is okay.

galen84basc
Post 4

@TunaLine -- I have to say I disagree with you. Why wouldn't you want to know about anything that is wrong with your body? Besides, who doesn't want more face time with their doctor?

I think that executive body checkups are a great idea. I bet it helps doctors check serious diseases much earlier, and I would think it could help them catch cancer or precancerous symptoms as early as possible, which is so, so important for treatment.

What's the downside to that?

lightning88
Post 3

I wonder if there have been any studies done on how effective executive check ups are at preventing health issues. I guess it would be kind of hard, since you would have no way of knowing how many diseases go untreated in those who only get regular physical checkups, but still, there's got to be some literature on the subject.

Does anybody know if there have been any studies done on the effectiveness of executive health screenings, or where I could find such information?

TunaLine
Post 2

I have to say, it seems to me like an executive physical exam seems kind of like a money-maker for doctors.

I mean, I'm all for yearly physical examinations, but an executive health exam seems like a bit much.

If you can afford it, I suppose you should go for it, but I think that most people can get by just fine without any kind of yearly executive physical exam.

anon38849
Post 1

That is why many feel the cost of primary care and prevention is not going to save any money and may cost more money. There is a new practice in NYC Metro Medical Direct that offers a behavior focused executive physical for $300. The testing is tailored to history, presenting problems and risk factors.

The problem is this exam is approached as a search for disease that may never come to be. The focus should be a search for risk factors and health behavior changes that can make a difference. Test usually leads to more testing and no guarantee of outcomes.

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