Why is An Annual Physical So Important?
Despite the poking, prodding, and inconvenience – or even the fear of COVID – doctors say it is important to have an annual physical to improve health and catch potential risks early.
“An annual physical actually serves three important purposes,” said Brett Johnson, DO, Intermountain Sanpete Valley Hospital. “Your doctor can use an annual physical to help catch health conditions from before they become larger problems. Catching issues early can make treatment much simpler and easier. In some cases, it can even be the difference if your problem is treatable.”
Dr. Johnson explained that regular screenings are important for everyone – just as children have certain milestones, tests to check for potential health problems might include:
• Breast and pelvic exams
• Testicular, penile, hernia, and prostate exams
• Blood tests
• General exam (vitals such as blood pressure, heart and respiration rates, an examination of your skin, as well as examining your general health, such as diet, physical activity and sleep habits.)
Next, an annual visit is a great time to get caught up on any immunizations an individual might need.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone over the age of six months get an annual flu shot. Depending on an individual’s age, there are other vaccinations the CDC recommends, including:
• Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (Tdap or Td)
• Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR)
• Human papillomavirus (HPV)
• Haemophilus influenzae
“You might very well have had many of these, but your doctor can give recommendations of what is right for you,” said Dr. Johnson.
Finally, an annual physical is a time to develop a relationship with a primary care health provider.
“Having a positive relationship with your provider can be invaluable when health concerns arise. Your annual physical is your chance to discuss any health concerns or questions and develop that relationship. It’s also important to note that any primary care provider can provide an annual physical – those providers include a family medicine physician, internal medicine physician or advanced practice provider like a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant,” Dr. Johnson said.
During the current pandemic, some might be concerned about visiting a hospital or clinic.
“Intermountain, like many healthcare systems, are seeing patients delaying care,” said Dr. Johnson. “While social distancing and ‘stay home, stay safe’ are important to slow the spread of COVID, it can also put people at risk for greater complications if they don’t see their provider.”
“Hospitals and clinics are places of healing,” said Dr. Johnson. “We have teams of people working together to create a safe environment.”
“Visitor restrictions, masking, and appointment scheduling are all part of the process to limit the spread of disease,” said Dr. Johnson. “Extensive cleaning procedures are also in place.”
When appropriate, video visits are also offered. “Obviously we can’t administer vaccines on a video call, but there are many situations such as follow up visits for chronic conditions where we can see patients without them coming into a clinic. We also have new remote monitoring options and Homecare services, depending on your situation.”
“As healthcare providers, we want to stress that we are here for our patients,” said Dr. Johnson. “At Intermountain, our goal is to help people live the healthiest lives possible. Regular visits give us the opportunity to meet that goal with our patients.”