Over the past few years, long-held recommendations for once-standard tests such as mammograms, prostate exams and scoliosis screenings have been revamped by some agencies, leading to conflicting advice and confusion about what to schedule when. Now, even the annual physical exam is being questioned.
“That’s why an ongoing relationship with your healthcare provider is so important,” says Reid Blackwelder, MD, board chair of the American Academy of Family Physicians. “Physicians treat patients—not diseases, conditions or tests—and so our recommendations should be made according to what’s right for each person given who they are, and where they are in life.”
While an “annual physical” might not be necessary, Blackwelder says factors such as your age, gender, diet and family history will determine the frequency of other recommended check-ins with your provider.
“It’s about building a relationship over time,” he says. Such background knowledge will help you and your provider make informed, shared decisions about your care, from mundane tasks like prescription refills to momentous changes such as surgery.