Dr. Oz’s 15-Minute Physicals

It’s become a cliché to complain about the fact that the average doctor’s visit lasts just 15 minutes, but it turns out you can learn a lot in that amount of time.

Recently, Mehmet Oz, MD, and the staff of The Dr. Oz Show traveled to medical schools and other venues in six cities around America to offer free 15-minute physicals. Dr. Oz and a cadre of volunteer doctors, nurses and medical students ran a quick series of tests on every “patient” there to come up with five numbers: cholesterol (HDL and LDL), blood sugar, blood pressure, weight and waist size. Those five numbers were enough to provide an estimate of heart disease and diabetes risk.

They also may have saved a few lives. In Philadelphia, one woman’s blood pressure was so high that she was in danger of having a stroke at any moment. She was taken straight from the event to the hospital. (As Dr. Oz put it, “By coming to our clinic that day, she saved her own life.”) A man’s blood test showed him to be so profoundly anemic that he went to the hospital, too. Another hundred people at that event learned that they were either diabetic or pre-diabetic and needed to make immediate changes to their diet and lifestyle to prevent serious problems.

Even cities with a reputation for healthy living didn’t necessarily shine. Portland, Oregon is the kind of place where you might picture the entire population pedaling off to the local farmer’s market while munching on flax-laden granola, but the numbers don’t lie: Oz found a lot of high blood pressure in that supposedly exercise-loving, laid-back city.

How would you rate if you had the physical? Watch this video from Practice Fusion, the electronic medical records company that managed the data for the 15-minute physicals, to learn more.

Recording the data digitally in a mini-version of an electronic medical record (EMR) allowed Oz to end the day by presenting a report card to each city’s mayor. EMRs are a computerized version of the fat file folder that has traditionally contained all a doctor knows about a patient—family history, notes about patient complaints and consultations, blood test results.

Some say EMRs are the future of medicine, though they’re not without controversy: It’s very expensive for a medical office to shift from paper records to electronic ones, for one thing, and doctors who use EMRs generally input the information during your appointment, possibly at the expense of really listening to you. Still, they hold the potential of cutting down on unnecessary medical tests (because they allow any doctor to see what’s already been done) and prevent medical errors (because no one has to struggle to read a doctor’s indecipherable handwriting).

Practice Fusion talked with us about the benefits of EMRs:

The 15-minute physicals are a stark reminder that it doesn’t matter how fit you look on the outside; what matters is how things are working on the inside, and the best way to know that is to learn a few crucial numbers.  Why not go to your doctor soon for your own health “report card”?

Have unexpected medical test results motivated you to take action? Share your story in the comment box below. 

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File under: In the News


Lisa Davis

Lisa Davis is a deputy editor at Sharecare. She's spent years covering health at a variety of national magazines and in the digital universe, developing an allegiance to scientific research and a respect for what people know about their own bodies. She’s written for newspapers and magazines across the country, and helped launch Hippocrates magazine and guide it as it became Health magazine. Later, she was Deputy Executive Editor at Prevention, and then Health Editor at Reader’s Digest. She tries to spend as much time as possible with her family and friends, figuring that happiness is a key to health and a lot more fun than taking vitamins.

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