Group Health Cooperative approves a "Well Adult" program, moving forward in preventive care, in March 1976.

  • By HistoryLink Staff
  • Posted 8/30/2005
  • Essay 7458
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In March 1976, Group Health Cooperative's Board of Trustees approves a "Well Adult" program. The program designed by Dr. Robert "Tommy" Thompson follows a "Well Child" program instituted a year earlier. It moves Group Health a giant step forward in preventive care, and addresses the perennial Group Health controversy over annual physicals, traditionally desired by members and disapproved of by doctors.

In the Well Child program, Dr. Thompson, who was a pediatrician with a public health background, instituted a standardized schedule of exams that proved just as effective (with fewer trips to the doctor) as the conventional procedure of individual doctors making individual recommendations. Resistance to this came from the more traditional doctors who opposed standardized preventive practices. Thompson later recalled that some of these Group Health doctors complained, "This is a communist plot. You are interfering with the God-given relationship between doctor and patient, and you can't do this" (Crowley, 148).

The Well Adult program established a schedule of periodic inventories and tests (rather than an annual physical). This resolved an old debate between members, who believed in an annual physical, and doctors, who in general thought the annual physical was a waste of time (not to mention boring to the physician).

The tests allowed Dr. Thompson to launch a series of groundbreaking studies in preventive care research. Before this time, according to Dr. Thompson, "You could not say that Group Health had recommendations for the prevention of anything" (Crowley, 148).

At this time Group Health Cooperative also began revitalizing its health education program, led by Kay Kukowski.

Sources: Walt Crowley, To Serve the Greatest Number: A History of Group Health Cooperative of Seattle (Seattle: GHC/University of Washington Press, 1995), 147-148.

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