As a primary care provider one of the most frequent questions I get from patients is “Why do I need to come to the doctor's offce when I don’t feel bad?” My response is that one of the most important things you can do is to see the provider when you are healthy.
The goal of healthcare is not to treat illnesses but to prevent them. Prevention and early intervention is the best way to prevent patients from having diseases that can cause anything from heart disease to cancers. Yearly tests and screenings help detect diseases that would normally go undiagnosed until the patient develops symptoms.
This is when patients feel they were “healthy” until they went to see the doctor. These are the patients that have not seen a provider for years that are then diagnosed with diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, etc. Had they had physicals, some of these diseases could have been prevented with simple dietary changes.
Currently it is recommended that adults 18 and older get biannual physical exams. Along with the general physical exam at these visits most providers also order screening blood tests that look at cholesterol, thyroid level, and glucose level. Hypertension can also be detected at this time. At age 40 women are encouraged to have mammograms and at age 50 both men and women are encouraged to obtain colonoscopies. These simple screenings can detect certain cancers in early stages which can help prevent an advanced stage that could be life threatening. It is also recommend that women get a Pap test which aids in the detection of cervical cancer.
When health exams are missed and patients make a visit to their provider because they are feeling bad the disease process is already in place. It takes a lot of intervention and time to get the patient back on track. This typically costs the insurance company and patient a lot of money. With the economic times ahead of us, and the ever changing insurance coverage, it is more important now more than ever to see your primary care provider in order to maintain your health and to help prevent costly illnesses in the future.