Health Spotlight

Yearly Physical Exams 

            One of the often overlooked medical visits is the yearly history and physical exam, also known as the “annual exam” or “preventative exam”.  While many patients make time for a dedicated annual wellness assessment with their physician, many patients are not even aware that they should undergo such an exam.  Other patients have basic lab and blood pressure screenings through their employer, but these are not appropriate substitutes for an annual exam.    Everyone should have a yearly visit devoted strictly to wellness with their primary care physician.  Annual exams are 100% covered under most major insurance plans.

            Doctors frequently catch themselves in the trap of mixing a ‘sick’ exam with routine health maintenance.  It is not uncommon for doctors to discuss and order blood work or a mammogram when a patient we have not seen in the past year comes in for an unrelated issue like a cough or sore throat.  Unfortunately, with this approach we cannot properly address all issues at as expansively as we should.

     During the annual exam, a review of the following should take place:

            *All past medical diagnosis

            *Life-style habits (diet, exercise alcohol and tobacco use, employment)

            *Medical and seasonal allergies

            *Previous screening exams performed

            *Blood pressure

            *Complete family medical history  (with a focus on cancers and cardio/vascular disease)

            *Colon cancer risk assessment and possible screening

            *Cholesterol risk assessment and possible screening

            *Osteoporosis risk assessment and possible screening

            *Immunization (such as pneumonia, flu, tetanus and others)

            *Chronic Medical Condition

            *Medications (past and present)

            *A screening of all common symptoms of all organ systems and common ailments

            *The patients health goals and desired approach to their health

               

All of this before the physical exam is even performed!

            Once your doctor has reviewed your complete medical history and performed a detailed physical examination, the formulation of a health plan starts.  The final plan for testing, immunization, laboratory work-up and health goals should always be based on a discussion between the patient and doctor.  Some goals may seem difficult, some patients may not want to undergo certain recommended screening tests and sometimes the doctor may decide to modify guidelines based on clinical insight.  We may advise certain tests, but the patient is always the ultimate decider in their healthcare.  Alternatives should always be discussed and offered. 

            In summary, all men and women should see their primary care physician once per year  for an complete history and physical.  By the end of this dedicated visit there should be an individualized plan based on a thorough discussion between the doctor and patient.




                

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