6 reasons to see a primary care provider even when you feel fine
You might think of a primary care provider (PCP) as the go-to person to call or visit when you’re not feeling well or have a health concern.
A PCP can diagnose illnesses and help when you’re sick, but there are good reasons to see them when you’re feeling fine too. They can work with you to help develop healthier lifestyle habits that may help prevent serious health conditions and keep you feeling well all year long.
Here are 6 motivating reasons to schedule an annual wellness visit today.
1. A PCP can help track your health
A PCP can measure your vitals and compare them to what they were during the last visit, to flag any possible problems. “We can help identify potential health issues before they become more serious,” says Soma Mandal, M.D., an internist in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey.
In addition, “conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes often don’t have symptoms, and they are risk factors for heart attack and stroke,” she points out. “A wellness visit is a perfect time to pick up on all these things.”
2. A PCP can review all medications
Some older adults may be taking multiple medications, which opens the door to drug interactions and possible side effects, points out Sarah Romanelli, a geriatric nurse practitioner and the founder of Allied Aging.
Most people over the age of 65 are eligible for a medication review, which is usually covered by insurance. But a 2022 study found that only about 20% of those taking at least 2 prescription medications had received a medication review. An annual wellness visit is a good time to do it, says Romanelli.1Make a list of all your medications including prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, supplements and vitamins, and bring it to your PCP appointment to make sure you don’t forget to discuss one.
3. A PCP may want to know about your daily routine
“They’ll ask questions like, ‘Are you able to go grocery shopping by yourself?’ or ‘Can you pay your bills by yourself, or do you need someone to help you?’” says Romanelli. Providers will also do a quick memory test and screen for depression and anxiety. These assessments help them gauge whether counseling or further testing is needed.
They can address home safety, too. Every second, a U.S. adult age 65 or older experiences a fall, making it the leading cause of injury in this age group, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.2 “So don’t be surprised if the PCP asks questions about how you get around at home. Then offers suggestions for doing it more safely, says Dr. Mandel.
4. A PCP can help make sure you’re current on vaccinations and screenings
Only about two-thirds of adults between the ages of 50 to 75 have gotten a colon cancer screening, for example.3 A PCP can review your medical history to make sure you’ve taken the steps needed for preventive health.
“You may think that because you had a colonoscopy 3 years ago, you’re okay for another 7. But your doctor may want you to go in earlier because of a family history of colon cancer,” explains Dr. Mandal.
5. Let your PCP know about your advance care directives
It’s important that your PCP’s office has certain legal documents on file, says Romanelli. This includes a health care proxy and a living will. Both documents are known as advance care directives. And both are ways to make your wishes known in case you can’t communicate them yourself.
A health care proxy is the person you name to make health care decisions for you during an emergency or serious illness. A living will lets health care providers know how you want to be treated if you’re unable to make your own decisions about emergency medical treatment.5
Both documents only go into effect if you’re unable to speak for yourself. They’re designed to give you, and loved ones, peace of mind. Take advantage of the annual wellness visit to see if the PCP has them — or if you need to fill them out.
6. A PCP has a chance to get to know you
An annual wellness visit is a chance for you and a provider to get to know each other a little more. “If you have a wellness exam once a year, it just makes for a better overall doctor/patient relationship,” points out Dr. Mandal.
And that’s the benefit of these annual wellness visits. The more you and a PCP work together, the more confident you’ll feel about the health advice you get. That will go a long way toward keeping you healthier.