A previous version of this article included incorrect information about how often to get a pap smear. It's recommended every three years, not every year. It also included incorrect information about when to see an eye doctor. It's every two years if you don’t have any vision problems, but once a year if you do. We've updated the post and regret the errors.
Scheduling a doctor’s visit might be the last item on your long to-do list. But it’s also one of the most important. Here’s what you need to know about when to schedule routine checkups and with what doctors each year.
If you have insurance, check your provider’s website to find in-network doctors. You may want to cross-check these options with referrals, or doctors recommended to you by friends—especially co-workers, if your employer provides your insurance. Then, do some good old fashioned Internet stalking. Resources like U.S. News’s Top Doctors, HealthGrades.com, and Zocdoc can help you get the 411 on doctors and their patient reviews.
Getting those doctor’s appointments on your calendar is step one. Then, you’ll want to prep questions for your doctor so you can be an empowered patient and make the most of your visit.
Get ahead of the game. Ask your doc, “What preventative services are right for me?” This gives your doctor a chance to tell you the screenings, tests, and vaccines that should be on your radar depending on your age and background.
Visit the family tree. Ask, “How does my family medical history affect my risk for certain conditions?” Your doctor will be able to fill you in on exactly how concerned you should be, and what measures you should be taking to combat risk.
Time for a browser tab check. Ask, “Which Internet resources should I trust?” This will help prevent paranoid WebMD rabbit holes and give you some trusted guidelines for your searches.
Get personal. Ask your doc, “What do you do for your own wellness?” This should give you some tips and tricks to apply to your own life. Or convince you to switch doctors if the answer is “nothing.”
Get the details. If you haven’t discussed it already, make sure to ask, “Why are you prescribing this?” You should understand exactly what your medication is solving for, and how it affects you physiologically. You can also ask if there are generic substitutes for your prescription as a cost-saving measure.
Every plan is different, but not all doctors are created equal under insurance guidelines. Your PCP, OB-GYN, dentist, and dermatologist are typically covered. You’ll want to check your plan to see what else is on the list. Here are some flags to watch out for:
Health plans aren’t one-size-fits-all—but everyone can and should stay proactive about their appointments. Calendar, handled.
Skimm'd by Becky Murray and Avery Carpenter Forrey
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