Routine Physical Exams

Take charge of your health with the help of your primary care provider

Routine physical exams are a great way to manage your health and develop an ongoing relationship with your health care provider. Routine physical exams help detect and prevent conditions like heart disease and cancer, and provide you with the important health screenings, vaccinations and education you need to stay well.

Overview

Routine physical exams are a great way to manage your health and develop an ongoing relationship with your health care provider. Routine physical exams help detect and prevent conditions like heart disease and cancer, and provide you with the important health screenings, vaccinations and education you need to stay well.

Your primary care provider may be a physician, physician assistant, nurse practitioner or nurse. All are qualified to perform routine physical exams. Your exam may include:

Review and vitals

Routine physical exams typically begin with a review of your medical history, height and weight measurements, and a check of your vital signs: blood pressure, heart rate, respiration rate and temperature.

Exam and screenings

Your provider will likely focus on screening measures which are tailored to a patient’s personal needs depending on their age, sex, family history and personal medical conditions.

  • Cancer screenings include those for breast, cervical, colorectal, prostate and skin cancers.
  • Cardiovascular screenings monitor your heart health through blood pressure and cholesterol checks.
  • Other screenings may be performed as necessary depending on your history, age and sex or if you are concerned about additional issues.

Immunizations

Immunizations protect you from a variety of diseases. Your provider will ensure you stay up-to-date on all suggested vaccinations.

Recommendations

Your provider will ask you if you have any questions or concerns about your body. This is a good time to discuss changes in your health or ask questions about how to live a healthier lifestyle. Your provider will discuss recommendations and resources for maintaining or improving your health such as tobacco cessation materials, weight loss strategies, nutrition guides, and/or exercise routines.

Important information for Medicare patients

A physical exam is different than the “Welcome to Medicare Visit” and the “Annual Wellness Visit.” Routine physical exams are not covered by Medicare.

  • The “Welcome to Medicare Visit” is a one-time covered visit within the first 12 months you have Medicare Part B (age 65). This visit does not include a physical exam but focuses more on personalized preventive service and health screenings. It includes a review of your medical and social history. Depression screening, functional ability and safety, end of life planning and review of recommended health screenings are also covered in this visit.
  • Medicare’s “Annual Wellness Visit” (age 66+) is similar to the “Welcome to Medicare” visit. As required by Medicare, you will be asked to complete a Health Risk Assessment tool. This visit does not include a physical exam.

What to Expect

Your primary care provider may be a physician, physician assistant, nurse practitioner or nurse. All are qualified to perform routine physical exams. Your exam may include:

Review and vitals

Routine physical exams typically begin with a review of your medical history, height and weight measurements, and a check of your vital signs: blood pressure, heart rate, respiration rate and temperature.

Exam and screenings

Your provider will likely focus on screening measures which are tailored to a patient’s personal needs depending on their age, sex, family history and personal medical conditions.

  • Cancer screenings include those for breast, cervical, colorectal, prostate and skin cancers.
  • Cardiovascular screenings monitor your heart health through blood pressure and cholesterol checks.
  • Other screenings may be performed as necessary depending on your history, age and sex or if you are concerned about additional issues.

Immunizations

Immunizations protect you from a variety of diseases. Your provider will ensure you stay up-to-date on all suggested vaccinations.

Recommendations

Your provider will ask you if you have any questions or concerns about your body. This is a good time to discuss changes in your health or ask questions about how to live a healthier lifestyle. Your provider will discuss recommendations and resources for maintaining or improving your health such as tobacco cessation materials, weight loss strategies, nutrition guides, and/or exercise routines.

Important information for Medicare patients

A physical exam is different than the “Welcome to Medicare Visit” and the “Annual Wellness Visit.” Routine physical exams are not covered by Medicare.

  • The “Welcome to Medicare Visit” is a one-time covered visit within the first 12 months you have Medicare Part B (age 65). This visit does not include a physical exam but focuses more on personalized preventive service and health screenings. It includes a review of your medical and social history. Depression screening, functional ability and safety, end of life planning and review of recommended health screenings are also covered in this visit.
  • Medicare’s “Annual Wellness Visit” (age 66+) is similar to the “Welcome to Medicare” visit. As required by Medicare, you will be asked to complete a Health Risk Assessment tool. This visit does not include a physical exam.

The more information you can share about your health history, the better your primary care provider can understand and anticipate your health needs.

History

Be prepared for your visit by writing down important family history (such as history of heart disease, stroke or cancer) as well as your personal history of surgeries, hospitalizations, allergies, illness and immunizations.

Medications

Bring a written record of your medications, whether they are prescription, over-the-counter medicines or nutritional supplements.

Preparing For Your Routine Physical Exam

The more information you can share about your health history, the better your primary care provider can understand and anticipate your health needs.

History

Be prepared for your visit by writing down important family history (such as history of heart disease, stroke or cancer) as well as your personal history of surgeries, hospitalizations, allergies, illness and immunizations.

Medications

Bring a written record of your medications, whether they are prescription, over-the-counter medicines or nutritional supplements.

The results of many screenings may not be available until a few days after your exam. At that time, your provider’s office will contact you, and let you know about any results that are a cause for concern.

Follow-up appointments

If needed, schedule any follow-up appointments for more testing or to discuss test results.

Referrals to specialists

When more specialized care is needed, you’ll be referred to a specialist. Your primary care provider will work with the specialist to coordinate your care and treatment.

Lifestyle changes

If your provider recommends making lifestyle changes, such as changes to diet, exercise or smoking, ask for help finding support and encouragement.

After Your Exam

The results of many screenings may not be available until a few days after your exam. At that time, your provider’s office will contact you, and let you know about any results that are a cause for concern.

Follow-up appointments

If needed, schedule any follow-up appointments for more testing or to discuss test results.

Referrals to specialists

When more specialized care is needed, you’ll be referred to a specialist. Your primary care provider will work with the specialist to coordinate your care and treatment.

Lifestyle changes

If your provider recommends making lifestyle changes, such as changes to diet, exercise or smoking, ask for help finding support and encouragement.

  • How often do I need a routine physical exam?
  • Am I up-to-date on my immunizations?
  • Do you see any signs of illness based on my exam?
  • Do I need to follow-up with any specialists?
  • How much exercise should I be getting?
  • What screening tests do you recommend based on my age and sex?

Questions To Ask Your Provider

  • How often do I need a routine physical exam?
  • Am I up-to-date on my immunizations?
  • Do you see any signs of illness based on my exam?
  • Do I need to follow-up with any specialists?
  • How much exercise should I be getting?
  • What screening tests do you recommend based on my age and sex?

Patient Stories for Routine Physical Exams

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

This United States government website contains information on the importance of yearly exams, how to prepare for the appointment, and what screenings or vaccinations you should receive.

Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

This United States government website contains information on the importance of yearly exams, how to prepare for the appointment, and what screenings or vaccinations you should receive.