Staying Healthy with Annual Checkups
Ross Taylor, MD, DRMC Chief Medical Officer (CMO)
March 12, 2017
Most of us will visit a doctor when we are sick, experiencing a new health problem or in pain, but to stay healthy, it is important that we visit our primary care physicians regularly even when we are well.
A recent study found that only about 21 percent of Americans get yearly health exams, compared to 65 percent who see their dentists at least once a year. Annual physical exams, like routine dental visits, are a critical element in maintaining good health. While a yearly examination may seem unnecessary, especially if you feel great, this regular visit with your doctor can offer valuable help in preventing health surprises and setbacks down the road.
Annual checkups are vital in our ability to prevent health problems and diagnose them as early as possible, but, unfortunately, only a small fraction of the population who could benefit from a yearly exam with their primary care physician will receive one this year. Early diagnosis of many conditions – from cancer, to heart disease, to infections – gives us the best chance at achieving the best health outcome possible. We recommend that everyone discuss with their doctor if they could benefit from a yearly checkup.
DRMC can help connect you and your family with a primary care physician who can perform a checkup and help you get started on a regular exam schedule that is right for you. You can call DRMC’s toll-free physician referral line, 1.800.424.DOCS (3627), for personalized assistance.
What is a primary care physician?
Primary care physicians consist of family physicians and general practitioners, general internists, general pediatricians and geriatricians. They are the doctors who are typically responsible for diagnosing new illnesses, managing chronic ones, advocating preventive care and protecting the wellness of their communities.
Primary care providers are usually a patient’s first contact and principal point of continuing care within a healthcare system. Continuity is a key characteristic of this practice of medicine. Having a consistent primary care physician allows you to consult the same practitioner for routine check-ups, preventative care, and consultations about emerging health concerns.
What happens during a regular check up with a primary care physician?
Doctors use a physical exam to see how the body is performing and monitor vital signs such as weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and other markers. Depending on a patient’s personal health history, a doctor may choose to focus on certain areas of a physical exam such as additional blood pressure and cholesterol screenings for patients with a family history of heart disease.
Beyond improving a person’s health, an annual checkup also is an opportunity to foster the doctor-patient relationship, which enables the doctor to sense minute changes in the patient’s health that can only be identified with a level of familiarity.
Additionally, yearly exams are the best way for a doctor to monitor patients to ensure they are getting the preventative health screenings at appropriate times.
Are annual exams expensive?
Getting an annual exam doesn’t have to be expensive. Most insurance plans fully cover one checkup each year. Contact your insurance provider for details regarding your plan’s coverage.
For more information about primary care and the benefits of annual exams, contact DRMC at 434.799.2100.