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5 Keys to Get the Most Out of Your Yearly Physical

How to get the most of your yearly physical

In the age of insurance dominance, your Family Doctor is likely as frustrated as you are with the amount of time we have to discuss your health, even at your yearly physical. Being prepared and having realistic expectations will help make your appointment more efficient and allow you to get the most out of your experience. More than ever, you need these 5 keys to get the most out of your yearly physical.

Keys to Your Yearly Physical:

Key #1: Get Your Records

Let’s say you have been seeing the same Family Doctor for 10 years and they have your medical record available at their fingertips through the computer in front of them. Shouldn’t they know everything about you?

5 keys to get the most out of your yearly physical

Even with that level of history they still may not. Here’s why: Walgreens or another pharmacy may give you vaccines, GI Doctors or surgeons may do your colonoscopies, imaging centers may do your mammograms, and your lab work may have been completed at your biometric screening at work.

That is modern medicine. In an ideal world, all of that information gets back to your Family Doctor and is in your medical record in time for your yearly physical. Note the word – IDEAL. Most often, I find that I have SOME of that information. Vaccines through pharmacies are hit or miss. I typically get a consult letter from the specialists who I send patients to for screening procedures. However, with colonoscopies, that letter may say something like, “I found a polyp and am awaiting pathology to determine when they need the next colonoscopy.” Mammography centers are typically pretty good at getting us results as they are actually ordered under my name.

In the digital age, keeping a simple list of your preventative services on your phone until your next appointment is SO helpful. I have a handful of patients who bring in typed lists of their medications, diagnoses, and preventive services as well – that is REALLY helpful. More often, though, my patients walk out leaving me with a list of “to dos” for my staff – places to call to get records that, sometimes, we never receive.

Key #2: Come fasting to your appointment

More than likely, you will have one reason or another for fasting lab with your physical. Many employers give incentives for getting lab work and that usually entails fasting. Almost every form asks for blood pressure, height, weight, blood sugars, and fasting cholesterol. If your company does not request this lab, your diagnoses or your weight in the United States today typically will. And making you come back for fasting lab stinks.

Fasting typically means 8 HOURS without food, sugar, or creamers. You can have as much water as you want, black coffee, or tea without sugar. Just no cream or sugar in your drinks. And it doesn’t have to be in the morning for physicals. I have some patients who go into work early and prefer to do lab later in the day. They eat an early breakfast and skip lunch thus making an 8 hour fasting period throughout the day. Drinking water will help you keep away from dehydration and, likely, make your blood draw easier.

Key #3: Bring the forms you need completed

As previously stated, many employers provide incentives for completing a physical. And the criteria varies per company. You may need a waist circumference, lab results, or just need a signature that states you had a physical.

We are happy to complete the form and fax it over for you. It is much easier to get everything in one visit rather than follow-up nurse visits, though. Bringing the forms with you will expedite this process.

Key #4: PLEASE be on time

Yes, I know – your Doctor always runs late. Do you know the biggest reason for that in most practices (Not all, but most!)? A patient ran late or ran significantly over their allotted time.

5 keys to get the most out of your yearly physical

Let me give you an example from this week: My 30-year-old female patient showed up for her 9:45 physical appointment at 10:04. We have a 20-minute late policy so she barely made it. By the time my MA had her ready for my to see, it was almost 10:15 and her appointment time was over. Ripple, ripple, ripple – and my last patient for the morning waited over 30 minutes in the room for me. And I am that rare Doctor that HATES running late.

It stresses everyone in your Family Doctor’s office out when you are late. Yes, your Doctor may not be on time but that is not likely due to the fact that they are reading a magazine in their office while patients wait. It is more than likely due to a late patient earlier in the day. And physicals are longer, more time-consuming appointments than other appointments. So PLEASE take precautions to be on time for your physical. It really does help keep your Doctor’s day running efficiently.

Key #5: Know that there are limitations with physical appointments

I totally get it. This may be your one time of year to come in and run all of your medical questions by your Doctor. I can’t even begin to tell you the stories I have heard at physicals. Here’s the problem, though: Physicals are actually PREVENTATIVE visits. That means your Doctor has as much, or more, of an agenda than you with this appointment.

Yes, we want to know what is ailing you and be helpful BUT not everything is covered by insurance with your physical appointment. Especially if it is NOT preventative.

Think of preventative services as things that actually prevent development of or furthering of disease. Diseases must be both common and life-threatening to qualify for preventative screening measures. Cancer screenings are preventative – they catch cancers early. Mammograms, PAP smears, and colonoscopies are included in that class. Vaccines are preventative – they prevent communicable diseases.

X-rays on arthritic ankles – NOT preventative. Nerve conduction studies for carpal tunnel – NOT preventative. These are items that will likely require another appointment. I know it’s annoying but big bills are even worse.

Simple Solution: Being prepared by fasting, bringing forms, being on time, and knowing your history will make your physicals more thorough and efficient for both you and your Doctor. And know that your Doctor isn’t just aiming for another copay if they ask your to come back.

For more expert tips on your yearly physical, check out:

Duke Health: https://www.dukehealth.org/blog/should-you-get-annual-physical

US News: https://health.usnews.com/health-news/patient-advice/articles/2015/09/30/the-annual-physical-do-you-need-a-yearly-exam

For more Blog Posts on Preventive Medicine:

PAP Smears: https://doctormome.com/what-age-should-your-daughter-start-her-pap-smear/

Gardasil Vaccine: https://doctormome.com/moms-can-get-gardasil/

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