Meta-analysis of RCTs of “health checks” — limited data on effectiveness

Clinical Question

How effective are periodic comprehensive health assessments (“health checks”) in primary care?

Bottom Line:

The existing body of research on periodic comprehensive health assessments is not able to determine if these “health checks” are meaningful. (LOE = 1a-)


Si S, Moss JR, Sullivan TR, Newton SS, Stocks NP. Effectiveness of general practice-based health checks: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Gen Pract 2014;64(618):e47-e53.

Study Design: Meta-analysis (other)

Funding: Government

Setting: Outpatient (primary care)

Allocation: Unknown


These authors searched several databases, as well as the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, to identify English-language randomized trials (randomized, cluster-randomized, pseudo-randomized) that compared the health outcomes of general practice-based health checks versus usual care in middle-aged participants. The authors don’t specify how they determined study inclusion, or if the data extraction and quality assessment of included studies was done in a masked and independent manner. Ultimately, they included 6 studies. The authors don’t report how many patients were included or the duration of follow-up in these studies. Virtually all the studies evaluated surrogate measures (eg, blood pressure, cholesterol, and so forth). The studies generally had significant sources of bias: lack of masking, high loss to follow-up, selection bias. Although the authors present a variety of improvements in surrogate markers, none are really clinically important. The authors reported no difference in overall mortality.

Henry C. Barry, MD, MS
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI

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