Often, especially when we’re young, it is easy to put off a routine checkup with your primary care provider (PCP). But just because you feel fine doesn’t mean you should avoid a quick stop with your PCP. Following a routine that best meets your health care needs is essential for good health.
“Regular checkups help keep recommended screenings up to date and help identify problems as early as possible,” said Mark Meeker, DO, an internal medicine physician and vice president of Community Medicine for OSF HealthCare. “The more you regularly communicate with your PCP and let them know how you’re feeling and taking care of your body, the better chance they have of identifying and helping you avoid health issues.”
What is a routine checkup?
For the sake of brevity, the common term has been “annual checkup.” However, Dr. Meeker says that term is a little misleading.
“The time between checkups may vary depending on age, gender, risk factors for health problems, etc.,” Dr. Meeker said. “A discussion with your PCP about the frequency of checkups is best to fit it to your individual needs.”
For example, high blood pressure is often referred to as the “silent killer” because most often, there are no symptoms. The first sign of high blood pressure can be a disaster event like a heart attack, stroke or even sudden death. Blood pressure checks are routine at checkups, providing your PCP with a history of your normal blood pressure ranges. Routine checkups help identify and stop problems before they develop.
If you suffer from a chronic illness, you might need additional checkups.
“You can’t manage a chronic condition well without appropriate checkups with your care team. It may not always be with your physician. Sometimes it may be another member of the team,” he said.
What you can expect
A routine appointment is a perfect time to interact with your PCP, giving them insight into your needs – both now and in the future. The appointment usually takes between 20 and 45 minutes, depending upon your situation and the complexity of your needs.
“It’s important to take this time to have a good dialogue about your health, answer your questions and review any screening exams or tests you need to have done,” Dr. Meeker said. “If you have chronic health issues, a review of those and a thorough review of the treatment regimen including any medications should also take place.”
Dr. Meeker suggests writing down any questions you have so you don’t forget to ask your PCP.
Whether you will require lab or blood work depends upon many factors, including age, gender, medical history and risk factors.
The modern twist
Due to advances in telemedicine, you have more options to manage your health.
“You don’t necessarily need to go into the office. Video visits work well for some checkups,” Dr. Meeker said. “Those that require a physical exam, however, need to be done face to face.”
The important thing is to make an appointment. And don’t count urgent care visits as a routine checkup.
“Urgent care clinics are designed to take care of the urgent problem. They want to take care of your immediate issue and get you in and out as quickly as reasonable,” Dr. Meeker said. “They’re not designed for regular checkups and screenings.”
Ultimately, we are all responsible for our own health. Following a PCP checkup routine helps identify any problems and avoid unnecessary health issues.