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Make 2017 a Year of Good Health - Schedule an Annual Wellness Visit

Make 2017 a Year of Good Health - Schedule an Annual Wellness Visit

With the holidays now in the rear-view mirror, January is an ideal time to take proactive steps toward making 2017 a year of good health. With that goal in mind, ATRIO Health Plans is working to raise awareness regarding the importance of scheduling an annual wellness visit.

Meeting with your primary care physician at least once a year is an important part of maintaining good health. Annual wellness visits are particularly important for those with chronic diseases, such as diabetes or heart disease, and those with a family history of chronic illness or cancer.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), annual exams are designed to:

  • check for possible diseases, so they can be detected and treated as early as possible;
  • identify any issues that could become medical concerns in the future;
  • update immunizations;
  • strengthen patients’ relationships with their doctors.

What to Expect

While the specific components of an annual visit will vary from physician to physician, the NIH notes that an average exam includes:

  • Health history – The doctor will bring the patient’s medical record up to date by reviewing any medical or surgical occurrences that have taken place since the individual’s last annual visit. Also, the physician may ask about: weight gain or weight loss; medications and supplements that the patient currently is taking; how often he or she exercises; and what the patient’s lifestyle habits are, e.g., smoking, alcohol consumption, diet.
  • Vital signs – An assessment of vital signs will be conducted. This generally encompasses a blood pressure reading, checking the heart rate as well as the respiratory rate, and taking the patient’s temperature.
  • Physical exam –The provider may examine the patient’s head, neck, chest, and abdomen. Additionally, the doctor will perform other exams as necessary, depending on the patient’s age and health history, and may conduct a dermatological exam in which the skin is checked for irregularities, including potential skin cancers.
  • Gender-specific exams – In conjunction with the assessments described above, the annual visit also could include gender-specific exams. For example, a woman might receive breast and pelvic exams, as well as a Pap test. Male-specific assessments may include a prostate exam.
  • Laboratory tests – As part of the annual visit, physicians often order lab tests that can help detect potential medical problems. The most common lab tests are a: cholesterol test; lipid panel; complete blood count; and a chemistry panel. Tests for thyroid disease and diabetes may be ordered. A urinalysis also is frequently conducted.
  • Other exams – Providers may order imaging studies, such as a mammogram or osteoporosis screening, or procedures such as a screening colonoscopy.

How to Prepare

By preparing some information ahead of time, patients can increase the efficiency and effectiveness of their annual visit. The NIH recommends that patients bring:

  • a list of all medications that they currently take, including prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs, and herbal supplements;
  • a description of any symptoms or pain they are experiencing;
  • results from any recent tests or lab work;
  • a chronology of all hospitalizations, surgeries, and serious medical issues;
  • contact information for other physicians seen recently.

It’s also recommended that patients dress in clothes that are easily removed, and that they keep accessories – such as jewelry – to a minimum.

Don't let January slide by without scheduling – or making note when you should schedule – your annual wellness visit.

Sources:

http://www.caregiver.com/articles/general/annual_wellness_visit.htm

http://www.cascadecommunityhealth.com/2016/10/27/the-benefits-of-an-annual-physical-exam/

https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/preventive-visit-and-yearly-wellness-exams.html

https://www.medicareinteractive.org/get-answers/medicare-covered-services/preventive-care-services/annual-wellness-visit