What is Preventive Health & Why Is It So Important?
Health and Well Being
March 27, 2024
What is Preventive Health & Why Is It So Important?

If the last time you saw a doctor was when you had that flu that was going around the office, a bad cough that you couldn’t kick, or that sprained ankle you got cutting the grass, you’re not alone. Many of us associate visiting the doctor with addressing illness or receiving treatment for specific medical issues. In fact, a 2018 study found that only 8% of adults aged 35 and above receive the recommended preventive care for their age group and health concerns.

However, preventive health care is essential for maintaining well-being and involves regular check-ups to detect and address potential health concerns before they escalate.

But what exactly is preventive care? Let’s take a look at what preventive healthcare is, what types of tests, screenings, and services are included, and the role your family history plays when it comes to the preventive tests you may need.

What is Preventive Care?

Preventive health services encompass a range of screenings and interventions aimed at identifying health issues before symptoms arise, promoting longevity and well-being.

For adults, these may include screenings for conditions like heart disease and diabetes, along with counseling for lifestyle improvements such as smoking cessation and healthy eating habits, as well as vaccinations against illnesses such as flu and COVID-19.

Children's preventive health care comprises regular check-ups, vaccinations, and screenings for conditions like autism and lead poisoning, ensuring their well-being from a young age.

Most health insurance plans cover the full cost of preventive health services, including private plans and those obtained through programs like Medicaid, CHIP and the Affordable Care Act.

How Family History Plays a Role in Preventive Care

Family history refers to the health problems that run in a person's family. It includes things like diseases or conditions that your parents, siblings, grandparents, and other family members have had. Knowing your family history is important because it helps you and your physician understand if you might be at risk for certain health issues.

For example, if many people in your family have had diabetes or heart disease, you might be more likely to get those conditions too. This information helps doctors decide what tests you might need to stay healthy.

If you aren’t sure what your family health history is, now might be a good time to discuss this with your close family members.

Distinguishing Between Preventive and Diagnostic Tests

As we mentioned earlier, preventive care can help you get out ahead of any potential health problems before they get started or have time to cause some serious damage. Many of the tests you’ll undergo at a preventive care visit aim to detect conditions before symptoms emerge. But you may also undergo some diagnostic tests, which are conducted once symptoms are present.

As an example, undergoing a blood test to screen for diabetes when you're not experiencing any symptoms is classified as a preventive test. A test like this may be prompted based on age, individual health risks, family history or a combination of all the above.

However, if you've already been diagnosed with diabetes and you undergo a test to monitor your blood sugar and A1C levels, this would be regarded as a diagnostic test to see how you’re doing in regards to managing the disease and to inform next steps.

Why Preventive Care is Important

Seeing a doctor for your personal medical care needs can be a time-consuming, inconvenient and anxiety-inducing task. That’s something Mohammed Ibrahim, M.D., a family medicine physician on the medical staff at Texas Health Plano and Allen, and at Texas Health Family Care, a Texas Health Physicians Group practice, knows all too well. But he adds that there are some very big “pros” when it comes to making time for preventive care visits, now and in the future.

“Having a physician you can partner with allows you to have a more tailored health care experience personalized to your specific health care goals,” Ibrahim explains. “By keeping up with age-appropriate health screenings and preventive care, we can help catch health issues early on and prevent future illness.

“And in my practice, walk-ins are welcome for acute sick visits, so you can get the dual benefit of a quick, convenient visit with a doctor who already knows your entire medical history,” he adds.

While having an established relationship with a primary care provider saves you time, money and hassle, and offers you more precise care, navigating the primary care marketplace may seem more daunting than just filling out new patient paperwork.

When there are primary care providers, family medicine physicians, internists and pediatricians, how can you make sense of who does what and who’s the best fit for your needs?

Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Primary Care Physician – Can be a doctor, physician assistant or nurse practitioner who provides acute care for common medical problems, chronic disease management, age- or risk-appropriate health screenings, preventative care and therapeutic lifestyle counseling, as well as referring patients to medical specialists when necessary.
  • Family Medicine – Doctors whose scope of practice includes both children and adults of all ages. Similar to PCPs but may also include special services such as obstetrics, dermatology or orthopedics, as well as minor surgery.
  • Pediatrician – Doctors who specialize in the care of newborns, infants, children and adolescents.
  • Internist – Doctors who specialize in the care of adults of all ages with either complex or a wide range of medical conditions.

Once you’ve narrowed down what type of provider you need, Ibrahim adds that looking for a physician who shares your philosophy of care and respects your needs and concerns should be of the utmost importance.

“For example, my philosophy of care is to provide my patients with the best evidence-based medicine. What it means to serve my patients is to offer them quality, compassionate care in a respectful and dignified manner,” he explains. “My objective is to deliver up-to-date evidence-based clinical practice in order to bring about the best possible health outcome for each individual patient. Most importantly, you should choose a doctor who respects you and listens to your concerns; someone you can trust and feel comfortable with.”

Another perk of having a primary care physician is their ability to connect you with a specialist if needed, which may also be required by your insurance. An added bonus is that they can also allow for a more efficient transfer of your medical history and care to the specialist, not only giving the specialist better insight into your care but also allowing an open channel of conversation between your primary physician and the specialist to allow for optimal care.

“When we refer you to a Texas Health specialist, we are able to see your referral/consult notes within the same electronic medical record system, and in most cases have immediate digital access to the same imaging and tests ordered by your specialists in real-time,” Ibrahim adds. “We support an integrated model of medicine where all your multidisciplinary care is connected electronically under one roof, so to speak.”

How Do I Get Started?

So if you haven’t seen a primary care physician in a while, but you are not ill, where can you start? An annual physical or wellness check is a great first step, says Jessica Ngo, M.D., internal medicine physician on the medical staff at Texas Health Dallas and Texas Health Internal Medicine, a Texas Health Physicians Group practice.

“The annual physical is a good time to review your health and address anything that may be falling through the cracks, such as immunizations, cancer screenings, and questions you may have that you forgot to bring up at your last visit,” she explains. “It is also a good time to screen for medical issues early before they become a long-term chronic illness.”

While it may take some trial and error to find the best physician for you, when it comes down to it, one of the best ways to set yourself up for long-term health and wellness is to establish care with a primary care provider.

If time has passed since your last check-up, there’s no better time to find a physician who can partner with you to achieve your health goals! Texas Health Physicians Group’s primary care providers across the Metroplex can help you improve your overall health. To find the right doctor for you or your family, visit Texas Health Family Care or call 1-800-916-8080.

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