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People often seek medical attention when they are ill or have a health complaint, but it is equally as important that they also do so when they feel well to ensure that any less obvious health issues are not lurking beneath the surface.
Well visits to the doctor are often referred to as "annual physicals." The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has replaced this term with the "Periodic Health Examination" to indicate that the frequency isn't always yearly, and that other exam components may be just as, if not more, important than those that take place during a routine annual physical.
Many of the time-honored components of the annual physical are not necessary year after year. Physicians do not need to perform the same tests every year on every patient. Each individual is unique with a need for testing based on his or her own personal and family history, complaints, concerns, overall philosophy, and risk factors. In the absence of obvious symptoms, exam components such as taking a thorough history, exploring lifestyle for high-risk behaviors, and performing certain screening tests often have more value than some of the more common medical testing procedures.
The electrocardiogram, for example, can be performed once as a baseline, and then only repeated if symptoms occur or a physical abnormality is detected. In most cases, a chest X-ray is only needed if there is a history of exposure to substances such as asbestos, a complaint from the patient, or a physical examination abnormality warrants it.
At The Occupational Health Center, we ask the employee being examined to first complete a screening questionnaire and then sit down with our physician to decide which components are appropriate. When tests are indicated, the results can be reviewed at a subsequent visit or explained in a letter.
If desired, The Occupational Health Center physician can be used as an information resource only, directing the employee to his or her personal physician if examinations and or tests are required. This option is often selected by companies that recognize the value of the Center's preventive medicine approach, but already provide a health insurance benefit that includes periodic health examinations and want to avoid buying the same service twice.
Last Updated: 7/22/2009