Your primary care provider is your health and wellness partner. They provide your routine wellness care, treat illness and refer you to specialists, if the need arises.
There are a few things you can do to make the most of this partnership. Understanding the difference between a wellness check and a sick visit — and being prepared for both types of appointments — helps your health care partner help you.
Dr. Ari Laliotis, a board-certified internal medicine and sleep medicine doctor with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, works together with his patients to strike a balance between caring for current health issues and the prevention of future problems. He recently answered a few questions about what patients should know about the care primary doctors provide and how to prepare for visits.
What is the difference between a sick visit and a wellness visit?
The two visits are very different in their goals and focus. A wellness visit is designed to be a preventive visit where we review healthy habits and make sure appropriate screenings — immunizations, mammograms, pap smears, colonoscopies, etc. — have been done or are scheduled. It is also a good time to review diet and exercise recommendations, and to review and update chronic medical conditions.
A sick visit is problem-focused and oftentimes requires a deep dive into the concern at hand. The majority of the time needs to be spent evaluating the specific issue to determine the best next steps and to plan treatment.
While we are often asked to try and accomplish both types of visits in one sitting, it is very difficult and can prevent us from giving each problem or issue the time it deserves. It is better to schedule a follow-up visit to fully address additional concerns, rather than trying to squeeze them in during the last few seconds of the visit.
What can a patient do to prepare for a wellness visit?
- Bring along your medications, vitamins and supplements, or at least a list of those you are taking and their respective dosages
- Expect to be weighed, have your height and blood pressure checked, and to be screened for depression and for risk of falling, depending on your age
- Be prepared to answer questions about your past health history, immunization history and your general health, including any symptoms you’ve been experiencing or other recent changes in your health
- Prepare questions and any notes about one or two additional concerns you would like to address if time permits
- Bring something to take notes so that you can remember what was discussed or bring another person along with you to be your “second set of ears”
- Understand that your doctor may need to order scans or additional testing, and a follow-up appointment may be required to plan and initiate treatment
Why is it important that patients are honest with their doctor?
We hope to provide the best care possible for all of our patients. We cannot do this without knowing everything that is going on. This includes personal stressors, lifestyle changes or what some might consider embarrassing issues. Sometimes those “embarrassing” complaints can be important clues to the puzzle of what might be going on with a patient.
For the news media: To talk with Dr. Ari Laliotis about preparing for a doctor visit for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.