Male doctor in white coat with female patient.

Not just for back-to-school: why every person needs an annual wellness exam

Does everyone need an annual physical? Like most things in life, there is an argument for both sides. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that regular health exams and tests can help find problems before they start. They also can help find problems early when your chances for treatment and cure are better.

Do I need an annual physical?

Alternatively, a 2018 article in TIME Magazine argues, “while annual well visits are a familiar part of the health care system, a growing pile of evidence finds that for healthy people without any symptoms, these yearly physician exams are a waste of time and money.”

However, later in this same article it is explained how closer physician-patient relationships may improve quality of care. Non-sick visits give providers and patients a chance to get to know each other. Providers then know the patient’s “normal” (heart and lung sounds, how their abdomen feels, etc.) and can easily recognize “abnormal.”

Patients are also found to feel more comfortable scheduling appointments when things are a little off, and these appointments could catch something big. Most of my patient visits are filled with chronic disease management, so the “wellness” issues get pushed to the end, and we may run out of time. Wellness visits are times when I can find out what my patient cares about in terms of health and partner with them to achieve their own health goals.

It is not so much what exam happens during the wellness visit but the talking the planning. In short, primary care providers recommend annual wellness exams to make sure you are “on track” to achieve your own health goals.   

Sarah Parrott, Des Moines University Family and Internal Medicine

Sarah Parrott, D.O., FAAFP, is chair of the department of osteopathic clinical medicine in DMU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine and a clinician in the DMU Family Medicine Clinic. Please watch this episode of DMU’s 2021 Mini Medical School to enjoy Dr. Parrott’s complete message on this topic, including an in-depth guide on what wellness is and all of the components of a wellness exam.

Disclaimer: This content is created for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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