By Dr. Christine Laramée, Chief Medical Officer, UnitedHealthcare North/Central Florida
You don’t have to be sick to visit your primary care physician. Being proactive and working with your doctor to create a preventive care plan can help you live a healthier life and maybe even reduce your health care costs. Preventive care plans simply start with routine checkups and screenings. In fact, many health plans pay for most or all of these types of preventive care services.
It might seem counterintuitive to see a doctor when you are healthy, but that is the best time to generate a baseline of your overall health. If checkups tend to settle at the bottom of your to-do list, here’s a four-step plan to help make preventive care a priority:
1. Make the call now. There’s no reason to wait. Call your primary care doctor to make an appointment. By being proactive in making a doctor’s appointment, you can make sure health issues won’t sneak up on you.
2. Gather information before your visit. You might wonder: Do I need a mammogram? A colorectal cancer screening? A pap test? To help prepare for a conversation with your doctor, take a moment to research what is typically recommended for people your age and gender. This is also a good time to gather information your doctor may need to know about you such as past treatments, immunizations, previous screenings and test results, what medications you take and your family health history.
3. Ask and share during your visit. Ask your doctor which screenings and vaccines you might be due to receive. What you need may be based on your unique health history, so it is important to have your personal health record handy. And if you are working on other health resolutions, like losing weight or quitting smoking, ask for help. Your doctor can be a great source of advice.
If your doctor or dentist prescribes a pain reliever, take charge of your health and find out exactly what you are getting by asking your physician about dependency, dosage and alternate treatments that may be as — or more — effective over the long term.
4. Make follow-up appointments before you leave. If you need any follow-up tests or vaccines, schedule them before you leave your doctor’s office. That way, they won’t slip your mind. To avoid multiple trips, ask if tests can be grouped into one visit. Finally, remember to update your health record with any new vaccines or screenings you receive.
Having a proactive preventive care plan can help ensure unwanted illnesses do not sneak up on you and will encourage you to participate in a healthier lifestyle.