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Doctors: Annual Wellness Exams Can Change Lives

Not all eligible seniors are taking advantage of Medicare-provided annual wellness visits. (mconnors/morguefile)
Not all eligible seniors are taking advantage of Medicare-provided annual wellness visits. (mconnors/morguefile)
November 20, 2017

ALLEN PARK, Mich. — 'Tis the season for family get-togethers, and this year doctors are encouraging families to discuss the importance of scheduling an annual wellness visit, especially for seniors receiving Medicare.

Dr. Robert Jackson practices in the Detroit area and is chairman of the Michigan Academy of Family Physicians. He said he's seen many positive changes since Medicare began covering annual wellness exams in 2011.

He said the yearly touchpoint is not just about checking off boxes or refilling prescriptions, but rather is a time to counsel older patients about the many preventive health measures available to them.

"The focus has changed as well from that 'yearly physical,’” Jackson said. "It's, 'Let's discuss what's going on with you, and let's discuss how we can make your life better and longer.'"

In order to make the most of the visit, Jackson recommends patients write down any questions they may have for the doctor beforehand, ask detailed questions about any prescribed procedures or medications, and bring a companion if you typically get nervous around doctors. Annual wellness visits also are covered under insurance plans offered through the Affordable Care Act.

Jackson said it's important to remember that regardless of age, medicine has limited benefits. What he said really helps is getting patients to make positive, long-term lifestyle changes.

"Getting people, say, to exercise 30 minutes a day, to quit smoking, to choose better foods, maybe lose weight,” he said; "those things that patients can do - they might need a little push - probably can have as much or more impact as the things the doctors do for them."

He added that family physicians, who are trained to see patients of all ages and a wide range of conditions, can provide continuity and a better understanding of your medical history, and even can treat multiple generations of the same family.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI