Set the year's doctor appointments!

This time of year, many people are resolving to take better care of themselves by losing weight, giving up a bad habit, or eating more healthfully. Take your health resolutions to the next level by scheduling all of your yearly medical visits in advance. Here’s a how-to guide for the whole family!

The guidelines below are for healthy, typical patients. People with certain risk factors or health concerns may need to see their doctors more frequently.

Primary Care Physician: Adults should see their PCP annually to have their height, weight, and blood pressure checked, and to discuss any lifestyle risk factors, concerns, and age or health-specific testing that may need to be scheduled (such as cholesterol screenings, colonoscopies, mammograms, etc.). Children under 18 should also see their pediatrician or PCP yearly for a basic health evaluation, vaccination updates, and so that parents can discuss any questions or concerns with the doctor.

Dentist: Adults and children alike should see their dentists every six months for cleanings and check-ups (and the free toothbrush!).

Optometrist: Healthy adults and children should see their optometrist every two years, beginning at six months of age. Those who wear glasses or contacts or who have other vision problems may need to visit their optometrist or ophthalmologist annually.

Dermatologist: Adults should see a dermatologist annually to be screened for skin damage or signs of skin cancer, and to discuss any skincare concerns or issues. Children may not need to see a dermatologist until puberty, or even later unless there is a concern. This is a great topic to bring up with your child’s pediatrician at that annual visit!

Gynecologist: Ladies, you know about this one. Woman should see their gynecologist for the first time when they become sexually active or beginning at age 18, and should go back at least every three years. Many doctors prefer to see their patients annually, and frequency can vary if there are health concerns or if a pregnancy is a factor. Gynecological care is different for every woman, so talk to your doc about what’s best for you. But don’t go more than three years without a visit!

A few tips: Before you see any doctor, go over your insurance coverage to make sure you know what’s covered and how often (like dental x-rays). Also make sure your doc of choice is in your coverage network. You don’t want to be surprised if a hefty bill arrives unexpectedly!

Prepare a list of questions and topics to discuss with your doctor, and don’t be afraid to have it handy. If the doctor seems impatient or unwilling to address your concerns to your satisfaction, he or she may not be the right doctor for you. Most of them time, though, this shouldn’t be a problem.

If scheduling an appointment six months to a year in advance is too tricky with your lifestyle, take advantage of the postcard mailings that many doctor’s offices send out. They usually come a month to a few weeks before you’re due for a check-up, so it’s the perfect reminder to call and schedule your appointment.

If your doctor’s office doesn’t schedule as far in advance as the date that you need your appointment, use the calendar feature in your email to send you a reminder right to your inbox to call again closer to the date.

How do you keep your family’s healthcare on track?

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