A long-term relationship will help establish trust with your provider so you feel comfortable asking questions, discussing concerns, or sharing personal information about your health. As a current patient, you also will have the advantage of being able to get an appointment when something comes up. New patient appointments often take time to book, and clinics typically give higher priority to current patients. Even if you need to see a specialist, your primary care clinic is still your health “home base”. You can follow up with your provider for help with understanding test results, discussing symptoms, checking how lifestyle changes are affecting your health and keeping track of when further tests or screenings are needed.
If you visit your health care provider only when you are sick, those appointments are focused on resolving your concerns, not on your overall health and wellness. An annual preventive care visit gives you and your provider the time to discuss your health maintenance and preventive measures that are recommended, as well as for him or her to provide counseling and evaluation.
Usually, any visit to the doctor includes going over your list of the medication you take. But it is especially important during your annual preventive care visit. Your clinical team will review your medication list with you to be sure it is still correct. It is important to tell them everything you take, including prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines, and supplements. Your provider will also discuss any questions or concerns you may have about medicines and can refill prescriptions at that time. They will also be sure that none of your medicines are unsafe to take together.
Your primary care provider will assess aspects of your health that other appointments overlook. Your yearly PCP appointment for a preventive exam will allow time to discuss how you’re doing overall. This may include such things as whether you’re having problems sleeping, if you want help quitting smoking or if you are having trouble performing your usual daily activities.
After your annual preventive care visit, you’ll have a personalized prevention plan. Your plan will supply a strategy for your health, including preventive practices like screenings, vaccines or lifestyle changes. Practicing prevention is important, even for healthy people. It’s much better to prevent a stroke, diabetes or a hip fracture, for example, than to treat it later. Your provider can offer advice for how to stay healthy and reach your goals. That’s also when you will discuss preventative care guidelines based on age and gender and any new screening recommendations. Through your regular wellness visits, your primary care provider will also be able to stay abreast of your medical history.
If you have not been seeing a primary care provider each year for an exam, it’s not too late to start. Your provider will help you to be sure you’re doing everything you can to be as healthy as possible. And, when you do have an issue that requires medical attention, you will already have a provider that knows you and your health history.
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