5 Doctor Appointments to Consider Scheduling in the New Year
Making a note of doctors’ appointments to schedule in the new year isn’t the most exciting list to create around the holidays but doing so helps ensure you’re at your best. As you start the process, questions like ‘Which visits are necessary?’, ‘How often do I need to go?’, ‘What doctor do I see?’, and ‘How should I prepare for my appointment?’ make the process more daunting. Making your list, and checking it twice, will have you prepared to keep health and wellbeing a top priority in the new year.
Being proactive about preventive screenings and exams rather than dealing with health concerns as they come up can benefit you in many ways. As always, it’s important to talk with your primary care provider about the visits and screenings that are right for you. What you see your doctor for and how often is dependent on your health needs and history and varies from person to person. We’ve compiled a list of preventive exams to consider and discuss with your doctor.
1. General physical exam
A physical exam is something your primary care provider (PCP) typically performs once a year to check your overall health. During this visit, your PCP will likely ask you questions about your diet and exercise, medications you’re taking, mental health, lifestyle, and changes in medical history. This is also an opportunity for you to be updated on any vaccines, and your provider can tell you the ones you’re due for. Your height and weight will be recorded, and you’ll get your temperature and blood pressure taken. Additionally, your doctor will perform some basic assessments like:
- Listening to your heart and lungs
- Feeling your abdominal organs
- Checking for any unusual growths or marks
- Testing your hearing and eyesight
When planning for this visit, it’s important to come prepared with any questions or concerns you have related your health, as well as medications and supplements you’re taking, and any changes to your medical history. Depending on the nature of concerns you may have related to your health, as well as your provider’s availability, you may have the opportunity to complete your wellness exam virtually, with referral to in-person providers as needed.
2. Skin exam
This preventive exam is one that’s often overlooked, but is crucial to catching serious conditions early on, like skin cancer. For most people, a routine dermatologist visit once a year is standard. During this exam, they will ask you if you have any spots that concern you or changes you’ve noticed in your skin. Then, they will perform a head-to-toe exam. If your doctor notices an abnormal spot, they’ll note and monitor it. Often, they will biopsy it that day as a precautionary measure. Similar to your annual physical, come prepared to this visit with any questions or concerns you have.
3. Dental exam
You should see your dentist twice a year to check on your teeth and gums. Having your oral health checked regularly can help prevent more serious issues, like gum disease. During a visit, a dental hygienist will professionally clean your teeth, and a dentist will perform an exam to check for cavities, tooth development and strength, and oral cancer. On some visits, you might also have an x-ray to check for structural problems and other issues that might not be visible during a dentist’s routine exam.
To prepare for this visit, note all medication and changes in medical history, and come prepared with any questions related to your oral health.
4. Gynecological exam
While there are no specific guidelines, it’s recommended for most women and those with a uterus to have a gynecological exam once a year, often beginning at age 21. During this visit, your doctor will check your reproductive organs, including your vagina, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. The doctor will perform a physical exam to check for any abnormalities. It’s recommended that those between the ages of 21 and 65 get a pap smear every three to five years as well to collect cells from the cervix, which are examined later to test for things like sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and cervical cancer.
For this appointment, come prepared with any changes in medications and medical history, as well as questions and concerns about your sexual and reproductive health. This visit is a good time to talk with your provider about your menstrual cycle, fertility and family building, contraception, and menopause.
5. Vision exam
It’s important to check on your eye health and vision regularly to address any issues before they become more serious. However, not all adults need to see an ophthalmologist as often as others. If you have good vision and don’t have any health concerns, it’s recommended to go roughly once every five to 10 years until age 65, when it’s advised to make this check-up more routine. If you do have eye or vision problems, wear contacts or glasses, or have a personal or family history that makes you more prone to eye issues, it’s recommended to see your ophthalmologist once a year.
During this visit, your provider will perform visual acuity and refraction tests to determine the state of your vision and how well your eyes respond to light. Your eyes will also be dilated to make your pupils larger so that your doctor can more easily view the back of your eye.
For this visit, come prepared with changes to medications and medical history, and questions related to your vision. Note that your eyes may also be extra sensitive to light for a few hours after this visit based on the dilation technique used, so plan your day accordingly. Depending on the outcome of the visit, you may need a new or updated vision prescription.
While this list is not comprehensive or applicable to all individuals, it’s intended as a starting point to guide you as you begin to plan for the upcoming year. Remember, your age, gender, race, personal and family medical history, and existing health conditions, among many other factors, all play a role in which providers you should see and how often. ALWAYS talk with your primary care provider to determine the best approach to care for YOU.
At Premise Health, we make finding trusted providers easy, scheduling visits quick, and attending them positive and valuable experiences. Our providers spend ample one-on-one time with members making sure they are being heard. We work to break down barriers and make it easy for everyone to access regular, preventive primary care in person at our onsite or nearsite centers, or virtually through our Digital Wellness Center. Care navigators help members access high-value specialty care in their communities, ensuring care runs smoothly before and after each visit. Learn how Premise can support you in taking charge of your health this year here.