It goes by many names: “checkup”, “well visit”, “annual visit”, “preventive visit”, but all refer to the once-a-year appointment that is dedicated to surveying your health and wellness. At this office visit we order age and health-appropriate screening tests, and plan follow-up visits for any specific problems that may be found or reported. In my practice, we dedicate twice as much time for this visit than for problem focused or follow-up visits so we can address all of the necessary preventive and wellness measures that you need at your age based on your health history. We really do need at least the 30 minutes we set aside for your well visit. We cover health screenings, preventive care and planning, risk stratification for heart disease, age appropriate cancer screenings and referrals, achieving healthy body weight, focusing on an active lifestyle, update immunizations, and whatever else may apply to your unique body, family history and needs.
Therefore, the well visit does not allow for simultaneous evaluation, examination and workup of problems that may be going on at the time. Problems need to be addressed as they arise in problem focused visits so that I can get a complete history of the problem, do a detailed problem-focused exam, document it, work out a treatment and followup plan for the problem, and provide any education on treatment (be it verbal or in the form of a patient handout), disease pathophysiology, and risks and benefits of medications, treatments or diagnostic tests that may be prescribed.
There has always been a slight misconception among some when it comes to what an annual well visit is. It is ok to tell us about any problems you have been having while here for your well visit, but please understand that we will probably ask you to return for a separate visit (as long as the problem is not urgent or emergent) so that we have time to evaluate and address the problem in the manner you deserve to provide the best possible health care to you.
Healthcare reform comes into the discussion because any health insurance plan that was started after a certain date in 2010 has to pay for one preventive care visit a year and any preventive screening test that the Dr. says you need at that time. A lot of people have interpreted that to mean that they get one doctor visit a year. Therefore, they may want to do “everything” at one visit….prevention, counseling, screening labs, problem evaluations, maintenance medication renewals, problem medication initiation, treatment plans for one or multiple problems, procedures like freezing of skin lesions or biopsy of skin lesions, etc. This is simply not possible. It compromises your health and decreases the quality of your care. I understand that most of us have high deductible insurance plans so follow-up and problem focused visits are not covered 100% with a nominal copay like we may have been used to in the past. But, don’t let that lead to a compromise in your health and well-being. Bring your problems to us, but allow us the proper amount of time to address them, consider all possible diagnoses for your problem and work out the best plan for you in a visit dedicated to that problem.
Thank you for your understanding as we continue to strive to meet all of your healthcare needs with the same degree of quality that you expect and have become accustomed to at Stone Creek Family Medicine.