March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness month, and we want you to receive the best preventative care possible. Early detection can help prevent serious illness, yet many people still choose to skip this simple, easy way to stay healthy.
Why are annual exams so important?
The benefits of early detection and prevention to save lives and reduce the impacts of disease have been shown over and over. These exams are the perfect opportunity to get your health questions answered.
“This is your chance to sit down with your provider and talk about your overall health and your family’s health history as well as your concerns for the future,” says Bonnie Ferrara, MD, family medicine. “It’s the opportunity for your provider to talk with you about your lifestyle, tobacco use, exercise and alcohol use, all which make a difference on your future longevity.”
The annual wellness exam is also an ideal time for most adult patients to discuss health screenings. These visits are the perfect time to discuss issues that may not directly relate to a particular medical problem or immediate illness. A good rule of thumb is to schedule these appointments around your birthday each year to make sure you and your provider are both updated on your care.
Why would you need an annual exam if you aren’t feeling sick?
According to Dr. Ferrara, seeing your care provider when you aren’t sick is one of the best times to see them. “It is actually better if you try to do this visit when you are not feeling ill,” she says. “It is an opportunity to talk about wellness. Not only how to contribute to your wellness but also the changes that you can make that will make huge dividends in the future for your wellness. In addition, it gives us the opportunity to do some education about what to expect in the coming years as far as your health and lifestyle changes.”
What can you expect at an annual exam?
Annual exams usually check your:
- History – lifestyle behaviors, health concerns, vaccination status, family medical history
- Vitals – blood pressure, heart rate, respiration rate and temperature
- General appearance – your care provider can find out a lot about you just by watching and talking to you
Dr. Ferrara adds, “If this is a Medicare annual wellness exam, it is actually an opportunity to talk to your provider about depression and dementia as well as be tested for those.”
Your annual exam is also the opportunity for your provider to discuss each of your chronic health problems and if they are well controlled or out of control. “As a provider, these visits give us the opportunity to hear how the medications and lifestyle changes we have recommended are working and if you are having problems with these, we have the opportunity to make suggestions of how to do things better for the future,” says Dr. Ferrara.
What can you do to better prepare for your annual exam?
Dr. Ferrara recommends that you have a discussion with your extended family about their current health problems or health history. “This is especially important when it comes to things like cancer, diabetes, lung disease and heart disease,” she says.
You should also make a list of your medications and exactly how you are taking them. Dr. Ferrara reminds us to be certain to include any supplements that you take, including over-the-counter Tylenol, ibuprofen and aspirin.
If you have records that may have to be requested from another provider such as your gastroenterologist, surgeon or OB/GYN, you can start the process of getting those records sent to your primary care provider.
What makes scheduling your annual exam even easier? MyChart!
VIDEO: How to Schedule Appointments in MyChart
MyChart, a free, secure online patient portal allows you to schedule and view upcoming appointments anytime, day or night. In addition, you can receive an email or push notification notifying you of wait list appointment slots so you can see a care provider sooner.
Other benefits of MyChart:
- Get your test results sooner
- Send a message to your healthcare team privately and securely
- View your provider’s notes after your appointment
- Use eCheck-in and save time by checking in up to seven days before your appointment
- Request prescription refills
- View your health information from other organizations that also use MyChart all in one place