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Making a physical exam your primary concern

Special Advertorial Health Section

Boston Medical Center
Making a physical exam your primary concern
Dr. Sheila Chapman. (Photo: Photo Courtesy BMC)

You got one when you were born. You got one before you started school. You got one if you played sports in high school. But somewhere along the line, you bowed out. Day-in and day-out you’re busy with activities for yourself or your family and somehow that physical exam keeps getting pushed back. You’re generally healthy, so you reschedule or don’t make an appointment at all. A physical exam never seems to make it on your list of priorities.

But, it should.

Here’s why: An annual physical exam is the easiest way to prevent an illness. During a routine exam, you will have your blood pressure and cholesterol checked and undergo routine screenings. Those tests may identify diseases or ailments that you weren’t aware of. For example, if a physician notices that your blood pressure or cholesterol is high, they might suggest that you change your diet or start exercising. Those type of preventative measures may lower one’s risk of developing a chronic disease in the future.

Scheduling an exam: Family Medicine vs. General Internal Medicine

When you schedule an exam at Boston Medical Center, there are two types of primary care physicians you can choose from: family medicine and general internal medicine.

Family medicine physicians focus on caring for the whole family, with training not just in general medicine for adults, but also in pediatrics and elder care, and sometimes in obstetrics and gynecology. Essentially, family medicine physicians are equipped to treat someone from birth to death. The American Academy of Family Practice (AAFP) describes the scope of family medicine as encompassing “all ages, both sexes, each organ system and every disease entity.”

General internal medicine physicians provide a broad spectrum of care for adults only. Their training includes diagnosing and treating chronic diseases for adults, like heart disease or diabetes. Both types of primary care physicians are equipped to conduct health screenings and physical exams, and if you need specialty care, both can help ensure you get it.

Getting the most out of your exam

There are several steps you can take ahead of your exam to make it quick and easy. First, take a look at your family. Has anyone been diagnosed with a chronic disease like diabetes or cancer? If so, put that on a list of things you need to talk to your doctor about. Did you just get a new job or switch careers? Add that too. A change in lifestyle could affect your stress level. Open lines of communication with your primary care doctor mean fewer visits to their office and more time enjoying life.

“Ultimately it comes down to trust,” said Sheila Chapman, MD, an internal medicine physician at BMC. “Primary care physicians establish close bonds with their patients because they see them consistently. That relationship allows us to better understand and address our patient’s health needs.”

As much as we like to plan ahead, the reality is you can’t always predict if you’re going to wake up feeling under the weather. That’s why Boston Medical Center’s family medicine division recently introduced same-day scheduling, the first of its kind in Boston, for existing patients. If your physician isn’t available, someone on their team with knowledge of your health history will be able to help you.

Why Primary Care?

Primary care physicians see you regularly and know your habits, lifestyle choices, family history and previous health complications—making them better equipped to help steer you in the right direction for treatment.

According to the National Institute for Health Care Reform, one in five people visit the emergency room for care they could have received from a primary care physician. “Diagnosis and treatment of a disease is an intricate multi-step process that often is difficult or unsuccessful if the patient never sees the same provider more than once,” said Gabrielle Johnson, MD, family medicine physician at Boston Medical Center. “It ultimately benefits the patient if they are established with a primary care physician so we can come up with a plan that addresses their concern while taking their lifestyle and risk factors into account.”

So, what are you waiting for? Put your health first and make an appointment with a BMC primary care physician. Visit bmc.org/stronger-together or call 1-844-MY-BMC-DOC (1-844-692-62362) to make an appointment today.

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