Surprisingly, though the annual physical is an ongoing standard of care, what comprises a physical isn’t standardized. There are many aspects that most physicals have in common, but the depth and range of exams are often up to the individual medical provider performing the exam. A clinic like Aspen Family Care, where we put an emphasis on long-term provider/patient relationships, may be more effective for annual exams, since the familiarity and history permits much more personalized care. There’s less “shooting in the dark” with examinations and other medical screening. A full-service medical office can provide physical exams for annual adult checkups, ongoing well child monitoring, sports participation exams, travel exams, and most other physicals that may be required for other purposes, such as immigration, adoption, and insurance.
When seeing your regular care medical provider at Aspen Family Care, the exam usually starts with a review of your medical history, and discussing any significant changes to lifestyle or changes to activities that potentially affect your health, such as quitting smoking or a new intimate relationship. Vital signs may be taken. These include:
Other measurements, such as blood oxygen levels, may be done if there are underlying respiratory issues. While history is discussed and vital signs are taken, your caregiver is also gathering general information about you through your speech, movement, and appearance. Internal exams, such as using a stethoscope to listen and hands to feel organs are done.
Blood and urine samples may be ordered for chemical evaluations. There are many recommendations and some guidelines for screening or other conditions that your medical provider will review with you and help set up if needed. Other preventive measures are also reviewed, such as immunizations.
Though new symptoms and conditions are very important, evaluating them or treating them may not be part of a physical. For instance, if you have warts, treating them is not part of a physical. A physical is meant to be an overview to assess health, assess risk, and provide counseling to stay healthy. Immunizations, because they prevent illness, are part of a physical.
There is a tendency for people to “save” issues until their physical. This is not recommended because it can create a delay in diagnosis and treatment and is not the purpose of a physical. Your medical provider may ask you to return to address specific issues so that appropriate time and attention can be given to them. In addition, sometimes a symptom may change how we approach your appointment time. For instance, chest pain evaluation may take priority over a wellness (physical) exam. As such, if someone comes in for their well exam with chest pain, we may not do a well exam and choose to evaluate chest pain instead. Physicals are by their nature, not urgent. Conditions like chest pain are urgent and take priority in this situation.
Blood evaluations may be part of a physical, but different insurance companies may have different degrees of coverage or cover different items. Checking with your insurance company ahead of time so that you know what is included in your physical can help you prepare for it. We recommend testing based on what we feel is the best for your individual health. Because we recommend it doesn’t always mean it is “covered.”
Being knowledgeable about your own insurance plan helps you determine what if you want or can afford recommended tests. Please feel free to contact your plan and bring in a list of items covered under a physical exam. If based on your unique health history and exam, we feel other items are needed, we will discuss what they are and why. Ultimately, decisions on health are always yours.
Since physical, mental, and emotional growth changes so fast throughout childhood, and since many children may only see health care providers during regularly scheduled visits, it’s important that these visits come at regular intervals that give a good overview of the child’s progress. Any time a child sees a medical provider without a specific ailment or injury to assess development and provide preventive health, it’s called a well child visit. There is a standard schedule for child well exams. As a general rule, the following is the schedule:
In addition to doing the typical tests, exams, and immunizations, your child’s caregiver assesses your child’s development to ensure appropriate developmental milestones are reached at the right age. Well child exams have different spans between them, depending on a child’s age.