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The NSPA Blog

Revisiting your yearly physical

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Posted on November 1st, 2018 by Teri Dreher, under Healthcare Reform, Medical Planning, Patient Advocacy

Staying engaged in your healthcare is hard

But we all know it’s necessary. Different demographics reflect various levels of engagement in staying active in their care. One thing we’re all told, though, is that at minimum we should be having a yearly physical. This aspect of preventative health has been so well advocated for that thanks to the ACA, almost all insurance plans cover one. As healthcare data continues to grow, it’s important to examine just how effective a yearly physical is. For aging adults, this is especially true.

What current research says

The idea of recommending yearly physicals didn’t just come out of nowhere. Yearly physical examinations can be a great tool for detecting diseases and promoting healthier lifestyles for patients. Still, the American Medical Association and other medical groups are moving away from the idea of an annual exam. There are different recommendations out there, but for adults over 40, we’re beginning to see the idea of yearly physicals move toward what’s being called wellness exams or periodic health exams. This is in part due to the fact that yearly physicals may be anxiety inducing and/or wasteful. Lots of times during physicals, doctors like to run the mill of tests. These aren’t always necessary, especially in healthy adults, and are part of why US healthcare is so expensive.

What that means

By no means are we advocating for getting less involved in your healthcare. Rather, we’re stressing the importance of getting the care that is necessary, and avoiding the tests that are not. If you don’t have any chronic conditions, you should still see your primary care physician every one to two years. For older adults, even the healthy ones, there are certain conditions you should be checked for. According to the AARP, these include but are not limited to:

  • Colon cancer screening: After the age of 45, everyone needs to be tested for colon cancer. For many adults, this can be intimidating. The good news is that if your results are normal, you really don’t need another one for up to 10 years.
  • Bone density scan: This is another one that you need at about age 65 or 70. It’s also another one, though, that can be put on the back burner for up to 15 years if your initial results are normal.
  • Mammograms: From ages 45-54, women should be getting mammograms once a year. After that, it’s safe to switch to once every one to two years. The American Cancer Society recommends that after age 75, you should consult your doctor as to how much sense it makes to continue with them.

Remember, staying engaged in your healthcare is a difficult but necessary task. The best way to ensure you’re getting the right amount of care, without going overboard, is to communicate with your doctor. If you’re not sure that your doctor is listening to you, get a second opinion. Or, consider bringing a private patient advocate along to your next visit.


As always, feel free to comment or reach out with any questions or concerns.

With over 36 years of clinical experience in Critical Care nursing, home based health care and expertise as a cardiovascular nurse clinician, Teri is well acquainted with the complexities of the modern healthcare system. She has served as a nursing leader, mentor, educator, and consistent patient advocate throughout her career in some of the best hospitals across the country. Her passion to keep the patient at the center of the model of nursing care led her to incorporate NShore Patient Advocates, LLC in 2011, serving clients throughout the northern suburbs of Chicago.

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