Without good health, not much else matters. A complete physical exam is an excellent way to identify undetected illness, to pinpoint risk factors and to discuss lifestyle changes.
How often should you be evaluated? A rule of thumb is three physicals in your 30s, four physicals in your 40s, five in your 50s, six in your 60s, etc. However, this frequency may depend upon your risk factors for different diseases. This article will explain several options for you.
Complete Physical Exam (CPE). These exams are most often done by your primary care physician (PCP). Most PCPs allot 60-90 minutes for a CPE. They schedule routine blood tests prior to your visit so your doctor can review the results and focus on abnormalities during the CPE. A chest X-ray and EKG are usually part of a CPE. Physicals should be tailored to your particular needs.
Executive Physical (Health Exam). Many of our partner hospitals offer executive physicals, which are designed to take 7-8 hours and get most, if not all, of your tests and procedures on the same day. This is very appealing to busy executives. Although the comprehensive exam is theoretically tailored to you, most patients get the standard evaluation which includes extensive laboratory testing, a cardiac health evaluation, visual exam, auditory exam, pulmonary evaluation, and weight, fitness and stress evaluations.
In addition to the standard evaluation, other options you may add on at an additional cost include genetic testing, whole body CT scan, dermatology consultation, etc. At the end of the day, your physician will review available test results with you and provide an overview of your health. In most cases, you will receive a written comprehensive report 2-3 weeks after the executive physical. The report will include recommendations for addressing problems and developing strategies for healthy living.
The main advantage is you can spend one day at the hospital and have all or most of your evaluation completed at one location. There are a few disadvantages to consider. Executive physicals entail comprehensive testing. While comprehensive testing may uncover some asymptomatic illness, it may lead to false positive results and unnecessary additional testing. Moreover, the physician who works with you during your physical will not be the same one to follow up with you if an issue is detected.
Destination Executive Health Programs. A destination executive health program (for example, Canyon Ranch in Tucson, Ariz.) includes a physical exam and comprehensive testing, but also places an emphasis on lifestyle changes with a more holistic approach. An advantage of a destination health program is that since you are in the unhurried atmosphere of a resort, it’s possible to focus on implementing lifestyle changes. It’s a more relaxing experience. The program can last four to seven days, with a condensed option lasting two days. Disadvantages include the longer time commitment, the expense and determining who will follow up on findings that are identified during the course of the evaluation.
The cost of these programs varies. The most cost effective is the CPE with your PCP, as most of the testing is covered by insurance. At an executive physical, some but not all testing will be covered by insurance. Destination programs are not covered by insurance.
SUSAN LOCKE, MD is Healthnetwork Foundation’s medical director.
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