How to get the most out of your yearly checkup

Illustration by Vicente MartÍ

You set your annual checkup with your primary physician months ago, made some notes about a few health issues, Googled symptoms and are now waiting patiently to see your doctor. At last, your doc comes through the door, completes your physical in ten minutes and, before you know it, you’re shelling out your copay and remembering a laundry list of questions you forgot to ask your doctor. Your annual checkup shouldn’t leave you flustered and frustrated. It should leave you satisfied and ready to take on another year. Here’s a guide to get you prepped and ready for your next yearly appointment.

1. Know what to expect

Expect your doctor to do a full examination as well as discuss medications, supplements and any needed tests like a mammogram or prostate screening. “Understand that a physical is a preventative visit only,” says Dr. Lisa Schnick, family physician at Overland Park’s Town Plaza Family Practice. “This is also a time to update immunizations, as these are not just for children and adolescents, and discuss ways to prevent illness, like diet and exercise.”

2. Have a strategy

The best way to get the most from your visit is to plan ahead. Write down your questions and prioritize them, starting with the most potentially serious issues. “You have to be realistic about what can be accomplished in a single visit,” says Tammy Brown, certified family nurse practitioner at AdventHealth Shawnee Mission. “If you have lots of concerns, it may be necessary to make another appointment to address your remaining questions.”

3. Don’t be late

Generally, patients should arrive fifteen minutes before their appointment to complete paperwork and provide insurance information. If you are late, you are likely to get shuffled to your appointment before you’re ready.

4. Bring necessary items

Doctors should see any lab and test results that you’ve had previously. Most imaging test results can be sent digitally right to the office, but if you are unsure, make plans to pick them up in advance. “I recommend patients have results sent to their home address to avoid getting to the appointment only to find out the provider never received them,” Brown says.

Take bottles of current medication and over-the-counter drugs or supplements with you to your appointment. Just because something you take says “all natural” or “organic” doesn’t mean it won’t interact with other meds and cause complications. 

5. Stay on track

Be engaged with your doctor as he or she performs the physical. This is your private time to ask questions about your health. But be realistic. “This is not a time to discuss problems such as knee pain, diabetes or anxiety and depression,” Schnick says. These issues should be reserved for a separate appointment with a specialist. “Insurance does not typically cover these problems under the physical exam, and it actually gets billed separately.”

6. Be open and honest

If you aren’t up front about your lifestyle and things like drinking alcohol, eating and exercise, your doctor won’t be able to see the whole picture. Provide accurate and truthful information, even if it means divulging the negative or embarrassing stuff.

7. Follow up

Your doctor’s office should follow up with you after the exam via a phone call, email or an online portal. Keep copies of blood work and other test results to reference throughout the year, and don’t hesitate to call back if you miss something. If no additional tests are needed and no health problems arise, you are set until next year.

Social Media

Get The Latest Updates

Subscribe to our newsletters

No spam, notifications only about new products, updates.