It’s a priority that deserves a promise.
While those New Year’s resolutions, such as watching what we eat or starting a fitness routine, are so common for so many of us, the importance of an annual wellness visit with a primary care physician, unfortunately, can often be overlooked.
It may also be a simple case of avoidance. After all, the continuation of stay-at-home recommendations, health safety orders and natural fears about visiting a busy doctor’s office during the COVID-19 pandemic can all be contributing to people not wanting to see their physician.
But without a doubt, it’s vitally important to make a yearly appointment with your doctor.
It makes good sense for a variety of reasons. Getting regular health exams and tests can help find issues before they begin to cause problems — and may increase your chances of finding a treatment or cure quicker. In addition, certain aspects of lifestyle and family history can contribute to your health. A visit with your physician can help to suggest screenings for tests that can detect possible problems before you even notice them, such as a mammogram for breast cancer.
It’s helpful to know that many physician offices and hospitals have increased safety protocols to protect patients who need to visit their doctor during the pandemic. There may also be options for conducting your visit virtually by using telemedicine or connecting with your physician by phone or email.
It can be useful to know the difference between a wellness visit and a physical exam. Unlike a standard head-to-toe physical, a wellness visit is primarily focused on preventive care, health screenings and wellness planning. It gives you an opportunity to have a conversation with your doctor about your health status and goals — and then create a long-term plan to help you meet those goals while maximizing your well-being.
You can also use the visit to talk to your doctor about any other health concerns you may have. For example, you can bring up changes in your life that may affect your health. And don’t be afraid to ask questions because the doctor is there to help you. They are ready to provide answers.
Remember, this checkup will allow us as medical professionals to address any health issues now, so you may be able to avoid any bigger problems in the future. The more you get in front of your health, the better your health can be. And the healthier you are, the less chance there is for a costlier health treatment down the road.
In addition to helping you stay healthy, going to your wellness visit each year can help you keep your independence. Keep in mind a visit can be designed for your specific conditions and focus on prevention. And, a visit can also be a great chance to get some extra one-on-one time with a medical professional, which helps your doctor personalize your care.
Depending on your conditions and health history, the doctor or nurse practitioner will typically:
Check your health history, vital signs and appearance;
Review your list of prescription and over-the-counter medicines;
Offer health advice designed to keep you healthy;
Create a list of your risk factors; and
Create a health care plan.
You’ll likely need to complete a health-risk assessment before your visit. Your doctor’s office may mail the form to you before your appointment or it may give you a link to download it.
In any case, it’s important to maintain your resolve in committing to your care, and making and taking the time this new year for your doctor to see how well you are doing.
I promise it will be well worth it.
Dr. Todd Wisser is an internal medicine physician with New West Physicians located in Evergreen.