Physical Exam Procedure
What is a Physical Exam?
Physical exams are meant to focus more on preventative care and address patient needs, rather than focusing on problems. The annual exam also helps to develop a more personalized healthcare experience that can pinpoint specific patient status and individual needs.
During a physical exam, some of the common information that is gathered includes, measuring height and weight, taking your vitals, and discussing personal health concerns. Additionally, the exam can be a time to review medical care preferences, medications, family history, and discuss how your social environment is impacting your overall health. Furthermore, your doctor will also conduct a physical exam, which may include a breast and pelvic exam for women, and a genital and prostate exam for men. A doctor may also order any necessary tests or screenings, including blood work.
The purpose of a physical exam is for your primary care physician to assess your general health status. It is also a good time to discuss any symptoms, pain, or health concerns you’ve been having.
A physical exam is recommended to be given once a year, especially if you are over the age of 50. The purpose for gathering information during a physical exam includes:
- Trying to catch diseases or conditions early, in order to start treatment early and possibly allow for a better prognosis
- Address any current problems that may become health concerns in the future
- Assessing for proper nutrition, exercise, and healthy weight
- Update immunizations
- Build a rapport with your primary care physician
A regular physical exam can also assess for any issues with your blood pressure, cholesterol, or blood sugar levels, all of which can point to underlying health conditions. It is also common for doctors to recommend a physical exam before a surgery, or as a prerequisite for starting treatment for a medical condition.
Being prepared for your physical examination will help the process go smoothly and will also give you an opportunity to discuss all the questions you may have. The first step in preparing for your physical exam is to schedule with the primary care physician (PCP) of your choice. If you already have a family PCP, you can schedule a physical exam with them. If you do not have a PCP, you can call your health insurance company to get a list of providers in your area.
Before going to your appointment, it is a good idea to gather information, which will allow for an efficient and productive exam. Paperwork that would be helpful to bring include:
- A current list of all medications, including herbal supplements
- A list of any symptoms or ongoing pain you’ve been experiencing
- Any recent labs, diagnostic assessments, or relevant tests
- Full medical and surgical history
- Contact information from any doctor you’ve recently seen
- Let your doctor know if you have an implanted device, such as a pacemaker or defibrillator and bring a copy of the front and back of the device card
- List out any questions you have and leave room to write down their answers
A physical exam covers everything from head to toe and assesses for your general health status. Part of the procedure includes taking your vitals, such as your heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature. An exam usually lasts about 30 minutes. Some of the main components of the exam will include:
- Observations will use instruments to look into your eyes, ears, nose and throat. Doctors will also check for skin lesions, any abnormalities in skin coloring, and will discuss any hygiene issues.
- The doctor will need to touch and examine certain areas of your body to check for lumps, size and shape of organs, and to check body responses
- A stethoscope will be used to observe the heart, lungs, and bowels
- Percussion on your abdomen is also sometimes used to check for organ location, blockages, or any problem areas
Laboratory tests are not standard protocol for a physical examination. However, if your doctor assesses a need for certain tests or you have a pre-existing condition that recommends them, tests may be ordered. Laboratory tests may include:
- Complete blood count
- Chemistry panel
- Urinalysis (UA)
Usually, these types of tests are not useful unless symptoms are already implying a problem. There are some tests that are recommended as routine, and a doctor may choose to order them every few years. If anything shows up on these tests, your doctor may recommend other tests.
Schedule a Physical Exam Appointment with Baptist Health Primary Care
Scheduling a yearly checkup is a great form of preventative care. By having a routine exam, a doctor can assess your general health status and potentially catch any problem areas early. Contact Baptist Health today to schedule your physical exam! You can also schedule an appointment with your current primary care provider in MyChart.
Next Steps with MyChart
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