Just like regular exercise and a healthy diet, routine checkups can help you maintain your health and wellness.
Regular checkups, even for healthy individuals, are an important component of your overall health and wellness.
However, many of us avoid routine doctor’s visits and checkups. According to the National Library of Medicine, we avoid health care for a number of reasons. If you’re healthy and feeling good, you may feel it’s a waste of time. If you live far away from health care services, you might feel like it’s not worth the hassle.
Whatever the reason, it’s time to think about getting on track and maintaining regular, routine care. Regular checkups, even for healthy individuals, are an important component of your overall health and wellness.
Why Do I Need to Visit My Primary Care Provider Regularly?
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there’s a wide range of benefits associated with accessing primary health care services on a regular basis. Here are some ways your health may benefit:
- Detect health conditions early on. When you have a regular routine established, your primary care provider may be able to detect health conditions or diseases early on, giving you the best chance of getting the right treatment quickly. For example, is your fatigue or the flutter in your heart stress-related or an early sign of heart disease? A primary care provider will help you address issues as they come up.
- Stay on top of preventive care. During a routine checkup, you can review the medications or supplements you’re taking, discuss any concerns you have, and review any screenings or vaccines you need. For example, your primary care provider can help you sort out which vaccines and screenings you need based on your age, lifestyle, other health conditions and family history.
- Get regular testing done. At a routine wellness appointment, your provider can check your blood pressure, review your cholesterol levels, check your weight and body mass, and more. You can monitor these numbers together and make sure you stay within healthy ranges. If not, you and your provider can discuss what steps you can take to prevent serious issues from arising. For example, routine blood work can check your blood glucose levels for diabetes, thyroid conditions, kidney disease, and more, according to MedlinePlus.
- Get access to specialists. When your primary care provider is on top of your health issues and concerns, he or she can recommend when it’s time to see a specialist. For example, if you’re having difficulty breathing, your provider can refer you to a pulmonologist. A good relationship with your primary care provider can help ensure you find the right specialists when you need them the most.
- Reduce health care expenses. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, even one trip to the emergency room or a hospital stay can cost thousands of dollars. Getting routine checkups and staying on top of your preventive care may save you from huge health care expenses down the road.
- Track your health history. Knowing your lifestyle, your health habits and your family’s medical history can all play a role in what vaccines, lifestyle changes and screenings your primary care provider recommends. If your primary care provider knows your family has a history of heart disease, he or she can review your risk factors with you, recommend dietary or lifestyle changes, discuss any necessary screenings and more.
- Make health goals and lifestyle changes. If you need to make a change to manage your health and you’re unsure how to go about it, your primary care provider can help. You can discuss your health goals, potential changes to your diet and more. Your provider can put you in touch with the resources and support you may need, and suggest different or new medications.
How Do I Know When to See My Primary Care Provider?
There is no fixed schedule that works for everyone when it comes to primary care. Your health history, age, lifestyle and your current health status will help determine how often a visit is necessary. Talk to your health care team about a schedule that works best for you. It may be something as easy as having a routine physical once a year, or it may be more frequent visits if you’re monitoring certain health conditions.
What Primary Care Benefits and Services Are Available?
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Primary Care page is the first point of contact for Veterans signed up for VA health care. For primary care services, you’ll be assigned a Patient Aligned Care Team. Your team will be made up of the following health care providers:
- Primary care provider
- Clinical pharmacist
- Registered nurse care manager
- Licensed practical nurse or medical assistant and clerk
In general, your primary health care team will provide:
- Wellness care
- Lifestyle coaching
- Preventive care such as immunizations and cancer screenings
- Help finding other providers, such as social workers and specialists
- Flexibility to meet your needs, including telehealth services, secure online messaging with your providers and more
- Training and expertise in health concerns common to returning combat Veterans, such as depression, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic pain, sleep disorders and more
For eligible Veterans, TriWest Healthcare Alliance (TriWest) partners with VA, providing access to a network of health care providers offering preventive care, immunizations and other care. If you are insured under a health care plan outside VA, talk to your insurance company about primary care and preventive care services covered under your plan.
If you’re searching for a primary care provider, check out these tips from MedlinePlus on choosing a primary care provider. Health.gov also offers a set of questions to consider when choosing a provider. The CDC provides more information about the importance of preventative care and routine checkups.
Make sure the primary care provider you select is in your insurance company’s network of providers. Visiting a non-network provider can greatly increase your health care costs.
No matter where you are on your health journey, regular routine care is an essential component!