Whether you are dealing with a serious health condition or consider yourself healthy, it’s very important to keep up with your doctor’s recommendations for preventive care. Do you know what kinds of preventive care you need? Are you diligent about scheduling all the necessary tests and care? If you’re like most of Americans, the answer to this last question is a resounding NO!
Why is preventive care so important?
As the saying goes – an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Since early detection of disease gives you the best possible chance for successful treatment, it is easy to understand why preventive care is so important. Many diseases, including cancer, diabetes and heart disease, can have few symptoms in the early stages.
Americans are negligent about preventive care.
Recent research found that only 8% of Americans aged 35+ received all of the recommended clinical services. Furthermore, almost 5% of adults did not receive any of the services!
Men vs women.
This is an arena where women outshine men. Sorry, guys! One can’t argue with facts.
The study found that men were more likely than women to get none of the recommended preventive services.
For preventive care services recommended for everyone, in general, women were more likely to receive services than men. There were significant differences for blood pressure and cholesterol screenings, obesity screening, as well as for counseling and depression screening.
Where are we doing well? Where are we falling short?
As one would expect, some preventive care services have high participation rates, and others are seriously lagging behind. The study found:
- Almost 90% of people were screened for blood pressure – the most commonly received preventive service.
- Less than 40% received the zoster vaccine for shingles – the least commonly received service.
20% of Americans are preventive care superstars!
It might be time consuming and costly, but it is possible to follow your doctor’s recommendations. At least for the most part. The study found that over 20% of adults received more than 75% of the recommended services.
Why do patients struggle to follow recommendations for preventive care?
There are countless reasons why people don’t receive all recommended preventive care services. Here are some common reasons:
Healthcare is expensive, although many insurance plans cover all or most preventive care services. Of course, there are other costs associated with medical appointments, including travel expenses, lost wages and childcare.
So many things to be scared of. Fear of finding out that something is seriously wrong. Fear that the test will be painful or embarrassing.
Difficulty getting to appointments.
There are many reasons why patients struggle to get to appointments. Hurdles include inflexible job schedules and childcare or caregiving responsibilities. A lack of transportation is often cited as a reason patients cannot access care, but that might not be as big a factor as expected. A recent study found that offering free rideshare services to patients did not improve the rate of missed appointments.
Lack of relationship with a primary care doctor.
Patients who do not have an ongoing relationship with a primary care doctor are less likely to receive preventive care services. Research found that patients who frequently missed appointments with a primary care doctor were less likely to have preventive care and had worse health outcomes.
Not understanding the importance of preventive care.
It’s easier to skip appointments and tests if you don’t understand how much they can help you prevent diseases or catch diseases in the early stages.
What kind of preventive care should you get?
The recommended preventive care services include screenings, counseling, preventive medications and vaccinations. You should discuss your needs for preventive care with your doctor, since patients’ needs can vary due to underlying health issues, family history, cultural and ethnic considerations and other factors. For your reference, you can view recommended screening schedules – see the Healthcare.gov list for adults and for children and Cleveland Clinic’s recommendations for adults.
What should you do to make it easier for you to follow recommended services?
As with many things in life, most of us don’t like to do things that are scary, painful or too difficult. But this is an area where you might have to push yourself outside of your comfort zone.
- Get health insurance. If you do not receive insurance through an employer sponsored plan, consider enrolling in the Affordable Care Act (watch for enrollment periods in the Fall; note there are certain exceptions that allow you to enroll at other times) or through Medicare or Medicaid.
- Check with your insurance plan to see what preventive care services are covered and which providers are covered in your plan. It’s important to realize that preventive care is cost-effective in the long run. Preventing diseases, or treating diseases in the early stages, will save you money. For tips on how to reduce your healthcare expenses, read this blog post.
- Don’t let fear of bad news hold you back. Avoiding tests does not mean you won’t get sick. In fact, the opposite can be true. You are more likely to be healthier if you receive preventive care.
- Don’t let fear of pain or embarrassment stop you. Your health is too important. And remember, nobody likes a colonoscopy. But we do it because we don’t want to die from colon cancer.
- If getting to a medical appointment is difficult for you, brainstorm options. Are there nighttime, early morning or weekend appointments? Can you trade childcare or caregiving responsibilities with a neighbor or friend? If transportation is an issue, speak with your doctor or hospital to see what programs or services they provide.
- It’s never too late to develop a relationship with a primary care doctor. And don’t skip those appointments. If you can’t make it, reschedule.
- Educate yourself on the importance of preventive care. For more information, read the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s site on preventive care.
My final thought.
Most importantly, keep in mind that you never want to find yourself in a situation where a doctor says to you “if only you had come in sooner”.