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Annual Physical Exam

written by Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse Written by Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse
Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse

Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse

Tessa is a MSN prepared Registered Nurse with 10 years of critical care experience in healthcare. When not practicing clinical nursing, she enjoys academic writing and is passionate about helping those affected by medical aliments live healthy lives.

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March 29, 2021 Read Time - 7 minutes

What Is An Annual Physical Exam?

An annual exam is something doctors perform every year to make sure you are healthy. This is often referred to as a “clean bill of health” and is performed annually. You receive an annual physical exam every year to reduce the risk of chronic diseases through proper preventative care and to find any early signs of alteration from your health and receive proper treatment in time. 

Most chronic diseases have already progressed when diagnosed because people do not get their annual physical exam. The CDC purports the power of preventative care as chronic diseases are currently the most significant public health challenge of the 21st century. As a nation, chronic diseases account for 75% of all healthcare spending, while 7 out of 10 deaths among Americans each year are the result of chronic diseases.

  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

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What Is A Full Physical Exam?

A full physical exam includes a thorough examination of your entire body while measuring your vital signs and analyzing all organ regions. A physical exam is performed by a medical doctor, typically your primary care provider. This procedure includes observation, palpation, percussion, and auscultation of your body using tools such as a stethoscope. 

A physical exam measures your overall well-being and is used as a preventative tool to detect any potential problems and diagnose illnesses.

What Is Included In An Annual Physical Exam?

A physical exam includes information gathering and actual examination of your body. The doctor will gather your health information such as prescription medications you take, surgical history, and family medical history. After the information portion is completed, the doctor will examine your body in a private and quiet examination room. 

The doctor will collect your vital signs with medical devices to detect your blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature. After this, the doctor will examine your skin for any rashes, bruises, or swelling. They will then examine your head, neck, and throat, as well as your abdomen and extremities, and listen to your heart and lungs with a stethoscope. 

Doctors will listen to any concerns you may have during a physical and provide counseling for your complaints while reviewing your potential risk factors.

Does A Physical Include Blood Work?

Each doctor will order different types of blood work depending on each patient, but typically the following tests are considered standard during a physical exam:

  • Complete blood count
  • Chemistry panel
  • Urinalysis (urine sample, not a blood test)

These tests are useful information for your overall health. If the doctor sees a problem on these tests, they may order more specialized tests such as a lipid panel or a diabetes test called an A1C. The CDC recommends that everyone over the age of 18 get screened at some point for hepatitis C, which is another blood test.

What Questions Do Doctors Ask During A Physical?

Doctors will ask several questions about your health, family, and surgical history. This is known as the history portion of their required history and physical (H&P) examination. The doctor will usually begin the exam with health questions, such as any concerns about your health or risk factors you may have. 

Next, you will discuss any medications you are taking, including any over-the-counter drugs and herbal supplements. Many herbal supplements interact with prescription medications, so it is essential to let your doctor know everything you take daily or periodically. You will also discuss questions about diet, exercise, lifestyle, coping strategies, and stressors. 

Family history questions will be asked, such as if your mother, father, grandparents, or siblings have certain illnesses or diseases. Oftentimes, certain conditions may run within families, which is important information to doctors. Certain diseases are likely to carry from one generation to another, which are also known as inherited traits. 

For example, if your mother or father has colon cancer, you might also have inherited a greater chance of developing colon cancer. Providing this information will give your doctor a better understanding of mapping out a proper preventive care plan, as well as a treatment plan if needed.

Surgical history includes information on surgeries you’ve had done in the past. This gives the doctor more clues on your past medical history and opportunities to retrieve medical records from other physicians, if needed, for review.

Should You Get A Yearly Physical?

Yearly physicals are important to prevent chronic diseases or to catch them in a very early phase and to manage acute illnesses. Chronic conditions such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, obesity, respiratory diseases, and oral conditions are all preventable with proper care. 

The World Health Organization estimates that if major risk factors for chronic diseases were eliminated, at least 80% of all heart disease, stroke, and type-2 diabetes would be prevented, and more than 40% of cancer cases would be prevented. This is why it is so important to get your yearly physical. You have the power to prevent serious illnesses.


Read: What are the Early Symptoms of Diabetes?


What Should I Do Before My Annual Physical?

Before your annual physical, make sure to write down any questions or concerns you have to ask your doctor so that you do not forget anything. Your doctor will not mind at all, and this actually shows your commitment to your health and well-being. 

You also need to have your list of medications and supplements you take, including the dose and how often you take it. The types of medications you take give your doctor a better idea of any previous illnesses and medical conditions you may have had.

Is The Annual Physical Exam Covered By Insurance?

Preventative care, such as an annual checkup, is 100% covered under most health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act. Annual checkups, immunizations, flu shots, and certain tests and screenings are all considered preventative care. Physical exams are covered by insurance because they are regarded as preventative care, being beneficial for both the patient and insurance company. 

Insurance companies want you to do everything possible not to contract illnesses that would make them have to pay thousands of dollars in bills. Chronic diseases account for most healthcare costs, which is why insurance companies gladly pay for preventative treatment such as yearly physicals. Extra blood work or tests may not be entirely covered by insurance; it just depends on your policy and treatment plan.

How Much Is A Physical Exam Without Insurance?

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the national average price for a physical is around $199 for people without insurance. At PlushCare, a virtual physical exam may be more affordable. This amount usually does not include lab work, which may accrue additional costs.

Community health clinics may offer discounts or even free visits in your area. You can check with your state’s website for more information. Other options include drug stores, which offer walk-in visits at affordable prices. Urgent Care clinics are also available to give physical exams.

  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

PlushCare-App-Steps

Can You Book a Doctor’s Appointment Online?

Although virtual doctor visits have become necessary due to the worldwide pandemic, they are convenient and provide high-quality healthcare. PlushCare offers virtual primary care and mental health treatment when you need it most. Our highly skilled medical professionals have trained and practiced extensively, with an average of at least 15 years of experience. Book an appointment at PlushCare today.


PlushCare can provide an “annual wellness visit” to online patients. An annual wellness visit is not the same as a physical exam, which needs to be done by an in-person medical doctor.

PlushCare cannot provide physical exams, DOT physical exams, or workers’ compensation physical exams, though our doctors can provide lab test orders if needed.


Read More About Physical Exams Online


Sources:

PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information.

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. STATISTICAL BRIEF #318: Expenses and Characteristics of Physician Visits in Different Ambulatory Care Settings, 2008. Accessed on February 22, 2021 from https://meps.ahrq.gov/data_files/publications/st318/stat318.shtml 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). The power of prevention. Accessed on February 22, 2021 from https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/pdf/2009-power-of-prevention.pdf 

MedLine Plus. Health Checkup. Accessed on February 22, 2021 from https://medlineplus.gov/healthcheckup.html 

World Health Organization. Preventing Chronic Diseases: a vital investment. Overview. Accessed on March 13, 2021 at
https://www.who.int/chp/chronic_disease_report/overview_en.pdf

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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