Guest column: Grand doctors assess wellness, too

Jen Fanning,
Grand County Rural Health Network

Many people do not understand the importance of having a primary care provider, let alone a provider who is local. Some people use a provider out-of-county, in Denver, for example, for well exams but use a local provider for sick visits. From the provider’s perspective, this defeats the purpose of having a primary care provider. Your provider needs to know you during all phases of your health – well and sick – in order to have the best possible tools to treat you. In other words, your provider needs to see you when you are well in order to have a baseline to help them best diagnose and treat you when you are sick.

A well exam is the perfect opportunity to get to know your provider and for him to get to know you and your family.

You can talk to your provider about your health concerns, including any family members who have new diagnoses. These are all very important pieces of information for your provider to have.

You also need to know the schedule for yours or your family’s well exams and make sure you schedule them on time. Babies should have well exams at 2 weeks, 1 month, 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 9 months, 12 months, 15 or 18 months, and 2 years. Immunizations often go with those exams and it is extremely important you do not miss an appointment. Your provider tracks your infant’s growth compared to other infants.

If by chance something is amiss, early detection could be a game changer and improve your child’s long-term outcomes.

Children need well exams at least annually after the age of 2. Your provider might ask you to come in more frequently. Please do so. Most children need immunization boosters by kindergarten as well.

Men and women should have exams annually to every three years, depending on your age and having an established relationship with your provider. Your provider will ask you about your diet and exercise, depression, alcohol and tobacco use, and safety concerns like seat belts. Your provider will also take your blood pressure, screen for chronic diseases and might order blood tests. After age 19, you should have one tetanus-diphtheria and acellular pertussis (TdAP) vaccine every 10 years. There are many other vaccines to discuss with your provider as well to determine what is best for you at each visit, including flu vaccines.

Young women should have their first pelvic exam and PAP smear within three years of becoming sexually active or by the age of 21, and every two years thereafter, to check for cervical cancer. Once the woman is over the age of 30, and your PAP smears have been negative three times in a row, your provider might tell you that you only need a PAP smear every three years.

Young men should have their first infectious disease screening when they become sexually active and regularly thereafter. If you have risk factors for heart disease, men should begin screening at the age of 20.

You also need to volunteer information to your provider, since the most important part of their decision-making is based on your personal and family medical history. The accuracy of present and prior history has a huge impact on the quality of care provided.

Finally, all health insurances are now required to cover an annual preventative service exam at no out-of-pocket expense to the patient. An Annual Wellness exam is a great way to make sure your provider is well-informed about your current health, and that you in turn are well educated about opportunities to protect your health no matter how you are feeling.

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