Another year has passed, and 2018 has begun with the majority of us making personal commitments to eat healthy, exercise more, lose weight, get eight hours sleep and take time to focus on ourselves. The reality is, this resolution probably lasted less than 24 hours for many of us.
The resolution that will help you be successful at all of those commitments, and more, is scheduling an annual visit with your primary care provider. Whether you see a physician, certified nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist or physician assistant, this visit could be the most important step you make toward living a longer and healthier life.
Many of us are mandated by our employers and insurance companies to complete an annual physical. And many of us are even compensated by our employers with a monetary incentive where a co-pay does not apply for an annual exam. Medicare encourages and even pays for an annual well visit. Did you know insurance companies will monitor your annual visits and the completion of suggested preventative health screenings and even have the right to cancel your insurance coverage and penalize health care providers if patients do not participate in annual well visits and preventive screenings?
The issue most providers are plagued with is most people dislike going to the doctor. So, when they do go, it’s typically when they are not feeling well and, they would like to have everything addressed in a single visit. A “well visit” is as it implies. A well visit should be completed when you are well. A well visit takes approximately 30 minutes and is labeled as “disease prevention and health promotion.”
Included in this visit is a “head-to-toe” physical which includes height, weight, vital signs, hearing and visual acuity. You and your provider will participate in a quick question and answer session, verify your current medical history, immunizations, last ophthalmology, dental, colonoscopy, mammogram, dexascan, pelvic and digital prostate exams.
An annual well visit alerts your provider to any changes in your health to include mental deterioration, balance issues, the onset or worsening of diabetes, hypertension, pain, changes in bowel habits, respiratory issues and heart issues. Reviewing your chart before, during and after your visit is completed allows your provider to check for past issues, abnormal labs, EKG’s, chest x-ray results and other past testing that may need revisited and addressed. Your provider is looking for any changes in your health or potential problems, no matter how slight, that will impact your future health.
Well visits are patient, gender and age-specific. Each group has specific recommendations for preventative health immunizations and suggested screening exams. Your provider will suggest testing and screenings based on findings from this well visit. A well visit offers the opportunity for you and your provider to talk about you and then update and document changes. You and your provider are a team. Your responsibility to the team is to keep your provider updated on any changes in your health. Your provider’s responsibility is to listen and offer recommendations for improvement. Together, you will make informed decisions regarding your care.
Your well visit begins in the reception area at your provider’s office. Your identity and insurance coverage will be verified. Your HIPAA papers and personal contacts will be updated and verified, to protect your privacy. Most importantly, it is your responsibility to check with your insurance company to ascertain the exact coverage each provides and to verify your insurance company’s expectations and coverage of care.
As the new year begins, remember to make your health the most important part of your 2018 resolution and visit your primary care provider for an wellness visit. Your body will thank you.
JoAnn McDorman MSN, FNP-C, Lima Memorial Physicians, Lima Family Care