Expert Health Articles

Have You Scheduled Your Annual Wellness Visit Yet?

Annual wellness visits (AWV) are an important part of an adult healthy lifestyle. The purpose of an AWV is to develop and maintain a personalized prevention plan to help prevent disease and disability based on your current health and risk factors. Even if you do not have chronic illnesses, it is recommended to have an AWV to be proactive about your health. These visits differ from traditional office visits in which you may be seen for new or acute concerns.

While many times your AWV is covered by insurance, your insurance might not cover additional discussions or testing associated with that visit. It is strongly encouraged to check with your insurance plan and be sure to understand your coverage. The term AWV is traditionally used for Medicare patients, but you may hear it referred to as a “physical” for other types of insurance. All adults are encouraged to get a yearly wellness visit scheduled with their primary care provider, regardless of insurance type.

During an AWV, there are some things that you can expect to review with your primary care provider. First, your provider will focus on you and your current health. They will assess for changes in your health by checking for signs of chronic illnesses such as hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. If you skip your AWV, changes may be missed. While reviewing your medical health history, questions pertaining to your family health history may also be asked.

Your primary care provider will create an individualized plan for you on ways to improve your health such as a healthy diet and increased physical activity. Recommendations for immunizations and preventative screenings will be based on your age, gender and/or certain health conditions. Please talk with your primary care provider to see what preventative screenings are appropriate for you. A few of the recommendations, according to U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF), are offered below.

These include colorectal cancer screening (age 45-75, frequency based on type of screening performed); lung cancer screening (current smokers or former smokers age 50 to 80, based on number of packs per day history); cervical cancer screening (females age 21 to 29 - every three years, females age 30 to 65 - every three years or every five years with HPV co-testing); breast cancer screening (females age 50-74 - every one or two years); prostate antigen level (males age 55-69, to be determined if appropriate by your provider).

In addition to reviewing recommendations, this is also a good time to review advanced care planning, which helps adults of any age understand and discuss their preferences regarding future medical treatments they may or may not want during a medical emergency.

By building that relationship with your primary care provider, year over year, it allows them to understand you better. With open and honest communication with your primary care provider, a plan can be developed to meet your individualized health care needs.

Have you scheduled your AWV yet? If not, please call your primary care provider today to schedule!

Jennifer Stull, MD
EasternWoods Family Practice