People come to the physician’s office for a lot of different reasons. However, regardless of the need, a visit to your primary care physician should include several components. Most people don’t go to the doctor very often, so if these issues aren’t included, they often go untended, and can result in health problems down the line.
So, what should a visit include:
1. History: This includes the reason for the visit, details of pain being experienced, or whether there have been any significant health events or symptoms since the last visit.
2. Review of medications: This is referred to as “medication reconciliation” and needs to occur on each visit. Medications are constantly in a state of flux and it is critical that you and your physician have the same list of meds for you.
3. Review of status of chronic conditions. This includes a quick review of the “problem list”, such as hypertension, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, etc, to determine whether each is under good control, whether any follow up testing is needed, or whether any medication refills or new medications are needed.
4. Social, behavioral, and mental health “check in”. Assessing these issues are an integral aspect of health care and should be considered at every visit. If there is any suggestion of depression, a short screening test such as the PHQ-9 should be administered. If you and your physician know each other well, this may be almost invisible and very quick. But it should be considered.
5. Status of recommended preventive measures. This includes a quick review of immunizations, recommended screening such as mammography, Pap tests, colonoscopy or Fit Test, or others.
A consideration of what should be involved in a doctor’s visit might also include the question of how often you should see him. If you have one or more chronic conditions, it is generally a good idea to come in for a visit about every 3 months. If you are healthy, but over 65, you should come in for a visit every 6 months. If you are healthy and under 65, an annual visit is probably sufficient. If you have an acute condition, or if you are currently undergoing treatment with a new medication, or a new dosage follow up is usually set at a month or less.