Why do people go to a primary care physician? Primary care providers prevent, diagnose and treat general health conditions throughout your life, but they treat some symptoms a lot more than others.

An exhaustive report in 2018 reviewed 12 scientific databases and chose 18 studies from 12 countries with a median of 250,000 patients, or more than 83,000 visits, around the world to evaluate the reasons for visits.

Here are the 10 most common patient-reported reasons:

  • Cough.
  • Back pain.
  • Abdominal symptoms.
  • Pharyngitis.
  • Dermatitis.
  • Fever.
  • Headache.
  • Leg symptoms.
  • Unspecified respiratory concerns.
  • Fatigue.

The 10 most common clinician-reported reasons for visits:

  • Upper respiratory tract infection.
  • Hypertension.
  • Routine health maintenance.
  • Arthritis.
  • Diabetes.
  • Depression or anxiety.
  • Pneumonia.
  • Middle ear infection.
  • Back pain.
  • Dermatitis.

Remarkably, 25 percent of Americans do not have a primary care physician. Primary care providers offer a wide spectrum of knowledge about all the physical, psychological and social conditions that affect you, and typically serve as your first point of contact with a healthcare system to address any problems or concerns. If they determine a more serious condition exists with a specific organ or body part, you’ll be referred to a specialist.

Importance of Annual Exams

Even if you’re feeling fine and aren’t experiencing any health issues, it’s important to continue visiting your primary care provider for annual exams.

“Everyone’s routine health care was disrupted during the Covid-19 pandemic,” says Dr. Cynthia Heller, Physician In Chief at Hartford HealthCare Medical Group. “It’s more important now, than ever before, to re-establish care with your primary care provider and give them an opportunity to understand your current needs.”

Routine health screenings given at the yearly visits could provide early detection of unknown problems. Your provider can work with you to develop healthcare goals specifically for you, as well as strategies for achieving them. As your provider gains a greater knowledge of your health, they can offer more personalized care, helping you live a healthier, happier life.

What to Expect at Your Annual Exam

During your initial visit, your primary care provider will want to get a clear understanding of your specific healthcare needs.

It’s typical for a primary care physician to ask questions about your:

  • Medical history.
  • Current health concerns.
  • Medications.
  • Family health history.

Based on your age, gender and health-related information, you may receive routine health screenings for obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease or other common diseases.

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What Questions Should You Ask at Your Annual Exam

Your annual exam is also the perfect opportunity for you to speak with your primary care provider and get expert medical guidance. Prior to your visit, spend some time preparing questions about your overall health, which could include:

  • Does my family history put me at risk?
  • Am I getting enough sleep?
  • Is my weight OK?
  • Am I current with all my vaccinations?
  • Do I still need all of my prescriptions?

Don’t Wait to Schedule

If you’re not feeling well, you don’t need to wait until your annual exam to see your provider. You should schedule an appointment whenever you’re experiencing out-of-the-ordinary pain or discomfort, such as headaches, back pain, stomach pain, or difficulty urinating. You may be experiencing symptoms of a health problem that your provider can identify and treat before it becomes serious.

“So many 21st-century diseases are modifiable by good, early preventive care,” says Dr. Heller. “By making an appointment now, you could be averting serious long term health problems in the future.”

Hartford HealthCare Medical Group has more than 300 primary care providers across Connecticut. To find the one that’s right for you, and to schedule an appointment, click here or call 877.707.4442.