You visit the doctor when you have a sore throat and take your son to the pediatrician when he suffers a playground injury. But visiting a primary care physician when you’re well is just as vital to your health.
Why are wellness visits important?
1. Regular wellness visits help you build a relationship with your primary care provider (PCP). It’s important to have an established relationship with a PCP for a variety of reasons. Wellness visits allow time to chat with your physician about symptoms you’re experiencing, questions you have and other issues. Over time, through these conversations, PCPs develop a thorough understanding of your health, your lifestyle, and your family’s health and history. This knowledge helps them more accurately assess your health and diagnose any medical conditions.
“Healthy and younger patients often think they don’t need a primary care relationship,” said Justin Ossman, M.D., family medicine physician at UT Erlanger Primary Care East. “But it’s vitally important for even healthy individuals to see a primary care physician regularly.
“It’s a similar relationship to the one a mechanic has with your car. If the car is new and running well, you may not see the mechanic often, but almost everyone takes their car in for scheduled maintenance to prevent issues. Primary care physicians want a good relationship with their patients — healthy and not-so-healthy — for basically the same reasons.”
2. Preventive tests and immunizations can uncover or prevent problems before they start. Under the Affordable Care Act, a variety of age-appropriate preventive services are covered by most insurance plans free of cost. These services, including mammograms, colonoscopies and immunizations, can help you maintain optimal health by finding health conditions early or preventing them in the first place.
“Every patient’s health is important and needs to be monitored, maintained or improved,” Dr. Ossman said. “During wellness visits, your PCP will perform a general physical, order lab work, and review any preventive measures recommended for your age and gender. For example, with a 50-year-old male, we’d discuss whether a prostate-specific antigen test would be appropriate as well as order a screening colonoscopy.”
3. Your PCP can connect you with other specialists. While an annual wellness checkup is important, it’s also important to have regular vision checkups with an ophthalmologist and annual skin checks with a dermatologist. Your PCP can make recommendations for specialists who can care for specific health needs. After making referrals, your PCP serves as the place where all your health care comes together.
“To go back to the mechanic analogy, the mechanic may have specialists checking on specific parts of the car, but the regular mechanic is still the point of contact for all of that and keeps everything together,” Dr. Ossman said. “The same is true for your PCP.”
Is it time for a wellness visit? Find a doctor who can meet your family’s health needs.