by Candy Turner, MD Family Medicine
Since the onset of COVID-19, many of us have probably focused more intently on our health than ever before – paying close attention to how we are feeling, staying alert to any signs that we might not be well and doing what we can to stay healthy. While a pandemic is certainly a bad thing, being more in tune with and focused on our health is definitely a good thing.
Typically, most of us will visit a doctor when we are sick, experiencing a new health problem or are in pain. However, to truly optimize our health, it is important that we visit our primary care provider for regular check-ups – even when we are well.
Annual physical exams can play a very important role in your health. While a yearly examination may seem unnecessary, especially if you feel great, this regular visit with your primary care provider can offer valuable help in preventing health surprises and setbacks down the road. Early diagnosis of many conditions – from thyroid issues to heart disease and other ailments – offers the best chance to achieve the best outcome possible and help keep you on the road to good health.
Additionally, regular primary care can help you establish a healthy and trusting relationship with your provider, making it easier and more comfortable for you to discuss any health concerns you have with a healthcare professional who can help.
So, what is a primary care provider?
Primary care providers include family physicians, general practitioners, general pediatricians and geriatricians, and nurse practitioners. They commonly diagnose new illnesses, help manage chronic conditions, advocate for preventive care and help protect the overall wellness of their patients.
They are usually your first contact when seeking care and your principal point of continuing care. In fact, continuity is a key characteristic of primary care. Having a go-to primary care provider offers you a trusted source for routine check-ups, preventive care and conversations about your health concerns. Your provider knows and understands your health history and potential risk factors, which gives them a more complete picture of your health and how to best manage it.
What happens during an annual exam with a primary care provider?
Your primary care provider uses your regular check-ups to see how your body is performing and monitors your vital signs, including weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and other important health markers. Depending on your personal health history, your primary care provider might choose to focus on certain areas during your exam, like additional blood pressure and cholesterol screenings if you have a family history of heart disease.
Beyond monitoring and improving your health, an annual check-up allows you and your provider to develop a strong provider-patient relationship, which can go a long way in helping identify even the smallest changes in your health or lifestyle. If you suffer from any chronic conditions, your primary care provider can help you manage them and stay tuned in to any changes in your condition that may need attention.
Yearly exams are also the best way for a primary care provider to ensure that you are getting the preventive health screenings and important vaccinations you need at the right times.
Are annual exams expensive?
Getting an annual exam doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, most insurance plans fully cover one check-up each year. Be aware, however, that this visit does not include evaluations for new problems; you may need to schedule a regular visit for any new health concerns. You should contact your insurance provider for details regarding your plan’s coverage. Some plans will cover routine laboratory screenings also.
If you haven’t scheduled your annual check-up, now is a great time to get it on the calendar. Provider offices are taking extra precautions to protect the health and safety of their patients, so it’s never been safer to visit your primary care provider. Your primary care provider may even have a few more openings for annual exam visits than usual.
If you don’t have a primary care provider, SageWest Health Care can help. Visit the “Find a Doctor/Provider” tab at SageWest Health Care.com, and get connected with primary care today to help you stay healthy for all your tomorrows.