And what to expect when you go
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, wellness exams (or checkups) with a primary care provider are covered for anyone who has health insurance. This annual visit allows you to develop an ongoing relationship with a physician, resulting in a level of comfort that makes communicating sensitive information much easier. In turn, this allows for better overall quality of care because you’ve got someone looking out for your overall health.
What to expect at your wellness exam (depending on your age):
- Check vital signs (blood pressure, heart rate and body temperature)
- Listen to breathing
- Go over family medical history
- Discuss your lifestyle habits
- Go over any health screenings you may be due for
- Possibly take blood to check cholesterol, blood sugar and other labs
- An opportunity to ask questions
Your doctor will use all of this information to formulate a plan to keep you healthy and minimize damage from any issues that may already be present.
Dawn Courtenay, M.D., internal medicine/pediatrics physician with Norton Community Medical Associates – Hurstbourne, explains why wellness checks and building a relationship with a family physician is crucial to your overall wellness.
“One big reason to start wellness visits is getting in there and finding disease processes early,” Dr. Courtenay said. “When we find out that someone has the beginnings of heart disease, for example, we can fix it. When we find out that a patient has advanced diabetes or colon cancer after the fact, it’s very difficult to treat. When you see someone every year we can look at trends in their health status.”
For kids getting their annual well child checkup, this is a time to monitor growth and development. Dr. Courtenay explains what to expect:
“They’re going to have a complete physical. I’m going to go through their development. I’m going to ask them about school. I normally don’t take blood at these visits, except once around 12 months and around 9 to 11 years old,” she said. “We’re going to be able to see subtleties that may not make them feel bad but could make a difference in their health long term. We are also going to screen for depression, especially in teenagers.”
For both kids and adults the annual wellness visit will help to set goals and monitor changes. Primary care, or family, physicians are trained to uncover potential health issues, and catching those early increases the chance for a healthier future.
For many, these regular checkups have been lifesavers.
“If you have a relationship with a physician you’re more likely to open up about any problems you’re having, whether it be medical problems or feeling depressed or anxious,’ Dr. Courtenay said. “When you have that relationship, we take care of you physically, spiritually and mentally. It’s important to build that rapport and go back every year. As doctors, we truly care about our patients.”