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Annual Exams: Are They Really Necessary?

About The Author

Gregory Buran, MD

Chief Medical Officer (CMO)

Network Health

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Countless American adults have been told they need to get an annual wellness exam to stay healthy. But new recommendations suggest you don’t need to check in with your doctor every year.

When you have a medical concern, such as migraines or persistent back pain, you should see your doctor. But annual exams are different from these types of appointments because they occur when you feel fine and are otherwise unlikely to see a doctor. The main purpose is to keep you healthy over the long term.

Traditionally, wellness exams are a time for your doctor to review your family history, check your vitals (height, weight, heart rate, blood pressure), conduct health screenings and give vaccinations. The exams are covered by health insurance with no out-of-pocket costs.

But healthcare organizations have started recognizing that age and risk factors impact the type of care people need to stay healthy. Not everyone needs the same screenings, year after year. It’s similar to maintaining your vehicle. You should do checks periodically but you don’t need to check everything, every time.

For example, a 54-year-old man with a family history of heart disease might need to be watched more closely with annual blood pressure and cholesterol checks. But a 25-year old female without the same family history might not require the same screenings every year. In fact, if she’s healthy, she may only need to see her physician every 2-3 years. In general, the younger you are, the greater the time interval that can pass before you check in with your physician.

We also realize it’s sometimes difficult for people to get to the doctor’s office – even just once a year. And they’re even less motivated to go if they’re healthy. But coming in for a wellness exam less frequently makes it easier for some people to keep their appointments. And every day new technology makes it possible for providers to send out reminders to help people stay up to date on where they need to be with their health.

To learn more about annual wellness exams and to find a physician near you, contact your health insurance provider.

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