What to Expect During Your Annual Physical Exam - Atriummednyc

What to Expect During Your Annual Physical Exam

What to Expect During Your Annual Physical Exam

The annual physical exam is an important part of your medical care and a mainstay of the healthcare system in the U.S. But what exactly is an annual physical? What is the difference between an annual physical and a regular office visit? And how should you prepare for either visit? Here are answers to some questions we get asked routinely.


What is an Annual Physical/Check Up/Preventative Visit?

An Annual Physical, also called an Annual Check-up or Preventative exam is basically a yearly visit to your doctor to make sure that your overall health is okay and you don’t have any medical problems that you are unaware of. While most healthy adults are not necessarily required to have an annual physical, those who have a complex medical history or even those who just want to feel assured of their health can benefit from this type of exam and prevent future health problems.

What are the main purposes of an Annual Physical?

Below are some of the main purposes of an Annual Physical:

  • As primary prevention
  • To identify risk factors for common chronic diseases
  • To detect a disease that has no apparent symptom
  • As a means for the doctor to counsel patients to promote healthy habits
  • To update clinical data
  • To update vaccinations
  • To enhance relationship between you and your doctor

What is normally examined during an Annual Physical?

Your Medical Provider will ask you several questions and provide counsel regarding your medical history and lifestyle choices such as smoking habits, alcohol intake, sexual health, diet, and exercise.

The physician will measure your vital signs, including your blood pressure, heart rate, respiration rate, and temperature.

They will also assess your general appearance. This includes the way your skin looks, your posture, as well as memory and other mental acuity.

Your doctor will use a stethoscope to listen if your heartbeat is regular and if your lungs are clear (heart and lung exam).

The medical provider will also check your ears, nose, sinuses, lymph nodes, thyroid, as well as your throat and tonsils (head and neck exam).

They will palpate your abdomen to detect liver size, tenderness, and presence of abdominal fluid (abdominal exam).

A woman’s annual exam may also include a breast exam. The doctor feels for abnormal lumps that may indicate breast cancer or, in some cases, benign breast conditions. The doctor will also check the lymph nodes in the underarm area and look for visual abnormalities of the breasts and nipples.

A male physical exam may also include a testicular exam, a hernia exam, and a prostrate exam. Your provider will explain what needs to be performed and why.

How do you prepare for your Annual Physical?

Make sure to drink plenty of water and fasting is generally not required unless our office informs you otherwise ahead of your visit. Please take note of anything you’re allergic to; your current medications (name and dosage); any recent lab test results; any device(s) if you have a pacemaker or other similar device; the names, phone numbers, and addresses of any doctors or specialists you’re currently seeing; and the name and contact information of your Pharmacy.

What about laboratory tests?

To complete the physical, some medical providers may draw blood for several laboratory tests and urinalysis. These can include a complete blood count and a complete metabolic panel (also called a chemistry panel).

The panel tests your blood plasma and can indicate any issues that exist in your kidneys, liver, blood chemistry, and immune system. This helps detect irregularities in your body that might indicate a larger problem. Your doctor may request a diabetes screen and a thyroid screen. If you have an increased risk of heart attack, heart disease, or stroke, they may also request a lipid panel (cholesterol test).

If you are overweight or have any risk factors for diabetes, your blood sugar will likely be checked. The American Diabetes Association recommends that all adults, beginning at age 45, should be tested for diabetes, regardless of weight. The CDC also recommends that everyone over the age of 18 get screened at some point for hepatitis C. This may happen during one of your physicals.

What about health screenings?

The annual physical exam is a great opportunity to refocus your attention on prevention and screening. Your physician will discuss what forms of screening are appropriate for you and give you a script to perform these at a suitable provider if appropriate.

At age 50, it’s time to begin regular screening for colorectal cancer. People with immediate family members with colorectal cancer or other risk factors may need to be screened before age 50.

For some women, age 40 marks the time to begin annual mammogram screening for breast cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends that Women ages 40 to 44 should have the choice to start mammograms if they wish to do so. Women age 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year while women 55 and older should switch to mammograms every 2 years, or can continue yearly screening. There are different guidelines for breast cancer screening depending on your personal risk for getting breast cancer and whose guidelines you chose to follow. Women should weigh the benefits and risks of screening tests when deciding whether to begin getting mammograms at age 40.

What is the difference between an Annual Physical and an Office Visit?

An Annual Physical is different from an office visit. The purpose of a Physical (preventive visit) is to review your overall health, identify risks and find out how to stay healthy. The purpose of an office visit is to discuss or get treated for a specific health concern or condition. Depending on your insurance provider, you may be billed for the visit as part of your deductible, co-pay and/or co-insurance.

If you schedule a preventive care (Annual Physical/Check-Up) visit and ask your medical provider to address a specific health concern or condition not covered by your insurance as part of a standard Annual Physical, your medical provider may bill an office visit for those services along with a routine preventative visit. The same is true if you need surgical clearance or other health certifications that the Insurance carriers do not consider part of a routine physical.

Do I even need an Annual Physical Exam?

Exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, watching out for anything unusual related to your health and not smoking may be enough to keep most of us in good health, with or without an annual exam. Still, there can be some benefit to keeping a close relationship with your doctor through annual visits, so they have the most up-to-date picture of your health. As long as you and your doctor are paying attention to prevention and your overall health, the details are up to you.


Health Insurance Benefits/Coverage/Authorizations

Atrium Medical cannot guarantee payment or verify that definite eligibility of benefits conveyed to us or to you by your carrier will be accurate or complete. Payment of benefits is subject to all terms, conditions, limitations, and exclusions of the member’s contract at the time of service.

Atrium Medical strongly recommend, request, and encourage you to be familiar with, and verify your benefits with your insurance company prior to being seen. Please be aware, that even then, it is still not a guarantee of benefits or payment.

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