Can you believe it? With the snap of a finger it seems like summer is over. The school year is beginning, soon the leaves will change colors and the holidays are just around the corner. Before you know it, every store will be reminding us of all the things we need in preparation for the holidays.

In health care, it’s not much different when you think of the importance of preventative screenings and annual visits with your primary care provider.

For many of you, the holiday season and the thought of preventative screenings and annual visits equates to a certain amount of stress trying to fit everything in. With approximately four months left in the year, there’s plenty of time. Preventative screenings and annual visits are integral parts of your overall health.

Annual visits establish a relationship between you, your PCP and the health care team. Just like any relationship, this provider- patient connection should grow with time providing more effective and compassionate care.

Providers want to get to know their patients, so seeing them on a regular basis is essential to establishing that rapport.

Annual care visits are the primary link giving both an opportunity to update the patient’s medical history and needs.

This also is a chance for patients to become comfortable with their provider and simultaneously for providers to stay up to date on their patient’s individual needs and health risks. At the annual visit, the provider can administer or recommend the appropriate screenings.

Preventative screenings are important at every age.

In infancy, patients are screened for hearing tests, blood tests and overall development. Because of the rapid growth in that first year, it is recommended infants are seen six times before the age of 15 months. Adolescents and adults are encouraged to check in yearly to screen for diseases such as hypertension or diabetes. Older adults are screened for colorectal cancer, depression and the risk of falling.

The goal of these screening tests is to discover medical issues earlier when they might be most treatable. PCPs are excellent resources to assist you in determining which tests are most appropriate for you.

The United States Preventive Services Task Force, as well as the Centers for Disease Control, publish guidelines and recommendations for every age group.

PCPs are trained and understand the most up-to-date recommendations. That is another reason why an annual visit is so important.

Most insurance companies cover the cost of preventative screenings. Contact your individual insurance carrier for complete coverage details.

If you haven’t had your annual visit, call your provider’s office today to schedule. Don’t put it off too long because just like the holidays, the year will be over before you know it.

Allie Saunders is Population Health Program Manager at Grand River Medical Group in Dubuque.

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