A lot of us skip out on Doctors visits in our 20s and 30s. Usually it’s because we feel fine and generally are doing well. Many only see a Doctor or healthcare provider when we’re not feeling well. Most of you are probably fine, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in medicine its to expect the unexpected. The unexpected can end up being a costly mistake.
Let’s talk about why it’s important to have health check ups and health insurance.
First, it’s important to realize that when you go to the doctor for a cold/cough or with another complaint, the time spent is usually focused on that particular area. It is not always routine to undergo a comprehensive history taking, physical and exam during those visits. This is especially important to know about urgent care visits where you likely don’t have an established relationship with the clinic or provider you are seeing.
Why is a complete history taking, physical and exam so important?
Early detection of any disease process is of the utmost importance. We want to nip things in the bud as early as possible to prevent further complications. We don’t always think about things like high blood pressure, diabetes, strokes while we’re young because we think these things only happen to older people. Unfortunately these and many other diseases can start at any time and it’s important not only to detect them but also to take action early.
So what is the recommendation for frequency of visits?
The current recommendation is for a yearly visit with your PCP/primary care practitioner (link to what a PCP is and how to choose one). This is usually a
- Family practitioner (MD specialized in family medicine)
- Internist (MD specialized in adult medicine)
- Physician’s assistant (PA)
- Nurse Practitioner (NP)
*If you get a clean bill of health you can often get away with a visit every 2-3 years, but you should always get this cleared by your healthcare practitioner at each visit. And if something new is going on, it is important to seek medical advice despite when your follow up may be scheduled.
Also, sometimes you may be asked to come back sooner than a year if something needs to be monitored or followed. It’s very important to follow these instructions as a delay could mean a delay in detection of whatever it is you’re being monitored for. I can’t tell you the number of times people end up in the hospital and much sicker than they should be for things that could’ve been prevented by keeping their follow up appointment
What should you expect at your visit:
– Try to arrive 15 mins early for the check in process
– Keep a Health Journal to jot down your own history or there are some great apps out there, like ShareCare where you can have all of your info at your fingertips.
– Check in
Provide personal, health and insurance information after which you are called to be taken to the Exam room.
Usually checked and charted by a nurse before you see the Doctor. Vitals are your blood pressure, heart rate, temperature and respiratory rate. Your vitals are our first clue to your health.
– History Taking
This can be brief or fairly lengthy, especially if this is your first visit. On follow up visits, your info will often only be updated. You may be asked about:
-Past Medical Problems and Surgeries
-Any medications you take, be sure to include any dietary/nutritional supplements, diet/exercise enhancers, vitamins, and anything over the counter from a Pharmacy, Whole Foods, GNC, etc.
– Family history, it would be good to review this with your parents/siblings or anyone you think would know anything about health problems in any blood relatives before your visit. It’s of particular importance to know if any blood relatives have any hereditary diseases, autoimmune diseases, cancers, heart, lung, liver or kidney disease, diabetes
– Habits like smoking (E-cigarettes do count), alcohol, drug use. There is no judgement, most doctors have seen and heard it all. It’s very important to be open and honest. Your doctor needs this information to know how to treat you and some substances can interfere with tests, results, medications and response to treatment.
–Depression/Anxiety screening, this isn’t always routine so ask if you think you may have symptoms of either or just aren’t sure.
– Sexual Health: Speak up about your sexual history, testing for STIs isn’t always routine. Getting yourself checked is responsible, if you are sexually active, doesn’t matter if its your one and only bae for life.. you need to be tested period
– Physical exam: General, Head/Neck, Heart, Lungs, Abdomen, Neurological and Skin Exams
Ladies, you should expect a breast exam and a PAP smear.
Guys, you should expect an exam for Hernias, testicular and sometimes prostate. Though prostate exams usually don’t start until the age of X, and even then are often times replaced with blood tests.
Fair skinned folks, you should have a full body skin evaluation for skin cancer
–Diagnostic Tests: this can include blood, urine or stool samples. General blood tests are done routinely for screening. Some clinics will do this at the same site and others will send you to a Lab to have your blood drawn. It usually entails a tourniquet around your arm, a quick pinch, a vial or two of blood and you’re on your way with a bandaid that you can take off after about an hour.
Urine samples are usually collected by a quick visit to the bathroom where you are instructed to pee in a cup in private.
For stool samples, you are usually given a container to collect a sample at home in your own privacy and given instructions on where to return the container for processing. Click the link to learn how to collect a stool sample.
-The end of your appointment should be to review recommendations, follow up plans and prevention. This is the time to discuss what you should be doing to improve your health until your follow up visit. No matter how often you are seeing your PCP, it is important to play an active role in keeping yourself healthy.
In addition to your PCP, you should routinely see an Ophthalmologist and Dentist.
Recommendations for health check ups based on your age:
Women Ages 18-39: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007462.htm
Women Ages 40-64: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007467.htm
Women Ages 65+: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007463.htm
Men Ages 18-39: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007464.htm
Men Ages 40-64: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007465.htm
Men Ages 65+: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007466.htm
Any questions? Ask below!
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