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Updated 11:00 AM April 19, 2004



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Periodic Health Appraisal Unit to close doors

The Periodic Health Appraisal Unit (PHAU) of the University Health Service (UHS) will close April 30.

Established in 1956 by Dr. William Mikkelsen, PHAU was modeled after the executive physical exam programs of the day, and was considered by many to be a concept ahead of its time.

As a means of detecting disease early, PHAU offered periodic physical examinations for a limited portion of the faculty, executive staff and retiree communities when such services were not routinely covered by medical insurance plans.

With today's requirement that all U-M medical plans offer periodic physical exams, the PHAU examination program has become redundant. The current budget constraints of the University led U-M to close the unit.

"We were ahead of our time, and we are proud that the University recognized the need for such services in our community," says Dr. Robert Winfield, director of UHS. "This program originated long before the prevalence of Health Maintenance Organizations in the 1980s."

Since then, HMOs have embraced the importance of physical examinations and screening for disease as a means of preventing illness and detecting medical conditions early, before more costly treatments are necessary. With the addition of coverage for periodic physical examinations to U-M's Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan in 2001, participants in any medical plan can receive physicals as a covered benefit.

Winfield says he will miss the "dedicated and talented staff off the PHAU," but he notes that the focus on prevention in medical plans today allows for earlier diagnoses and prevention of some diseases. "And they allow a greater breadth of access than a single organization like the PHAU could have achieved," he says.

PHAU staff will continue to see patients who have existing appointments through April 30, but new appointment are not being scheduled. Nurse practitioner Terry MacLean of PHAU recommends that individuals who have received services in the past without providing the name of their primary care physician (PCP) to PHAU staff do so now in order to have copies of medical records transferred. Patients with a designated PCP on file at the PHAU had copies of their medical records transferred automatically to their PCP after each visit, and they do not need to take any action.

"We want to make the transition as smooth as possible, and staff will remain here through June to assist patients with authorizations for transfer of medical records and completion of any short-term drug therapies or treatments we have already prescribed," MacLean says.

PHAU's team of a nurse practitioner, part-time physician, manager and part-time support staff provided physical exams for about 500 patients a year. The unit also provided workplace wellness programs, including annual flu shot programs. The University currently is evaluating the continuation of wellness programs that offer high value to the public health of the University community.

To arrange transfer of medical records from PHAU, please call the unit by June 15 at (734) 764-8300. For questions about U-M health plans or the selection of a primary care physician, visit the Benefits Office Web site at or call a benefits representative at the HR/Payroll Service Center, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. at (734) 615-2000.

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