Don’t forget preventive maintenance on your own body

Just like having preventive maintenance done on your car, home, heating and air conditioning systems, it’s important to at think about preventive maintenance on ourselves.

Sometimes we don’t think about doing things for our health that might prevent a calamity in the future. But we should. Many times, finding out that something is wrong, and starting treatment early, can prevent complications later on in life.

Below, I’ve listed some of the medical services that are available, and should be covered without having to pay a co-pay or meet your yearly deductible.

NOTE: These are not the only preventive screening services that you may need. The exact screenings that are appropriate vary, depending on things like your age, gender, membership in a higher-risk group, and more. So consult your doctor to see if other screenings may be appropriate for you.

Now, you must have this done through your health insurance plan’s network if you expect to be reimbursed.  Always check with your health plan in advance to verify your enrollment and eligibility before getting screened. For example, if your plan doesn’t have an agreement (is in network) with Quest Labs, if you have your cholesterol test done there, you’ll pay out of pocket. If Lab Corps is in your network, that’s where you’ll need to go to have the cholesterol checked and the insco will then pay for the test. This is something your insurance company should be able to tell you.

Here are a few of the screenings you should look into:

  • Colorectal cancer check
  • Immunizations (depending on your age and other factors you may be eligible for the following: varciella, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, pneumococcal pneumonia, Herpes, hepatitis A and B, flu, Meningococcus and others.)
  • HIV screening
  • Cholesterol check
  • Type II diabetes screening
  • Hypertension screening
  • Alcohol abuse screening
  • Depression screening
  • Diet and nutrition counseling
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm screening
  • Tobacco use screening and help with quitting
  • Syphilis and other sexually-transmitted infection screenings
  • Obesity screening and intervention
  • Counseling on aspirin use
Mechanic via Shutterstock.

Mechanic via Shutterstock.

There are additional screening tests that are available for women. Again, these screenings may only apply to certain ages, members of certain groups (e.g., women who are pregnant), etc. So check first with your insurance company to make sure that you are covered before getting screened.

  • Domestic violence
  • Mammography
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Osteoporosis
  • Human Papilloma virus (HPV) testing
  • Cervical cancer
  • Contraception
  • Breast cancer counseling
  • BRCA counseling (BRCA is related to increased risk of breast cancer)
  • and others.

Additionally, there are a number of services for children that should be covered under your health plan. Some insurance companies are more progressive in covering preventive medical services than others.

If you don’t have insurance, you may still be able to get access to some of the screenings. You can check with your local county (or city) health department. In some instances, they are proactive and may have things like sexually transmitted infection screenings available for free. Some offer classes on diet and nutrition, some have free or low-cost vaccines. You can also check with your local county (or city) department of social services. They may be able to help you find medical providers or clinics that will charge less for their services.

Another alternative is to check with a local hospital that teaches residents in internal medicine and/or family medicine. They often have clinic services available at lower cost. Some may be free or on a sliding-scale based on income. Some areas offer community health fairs or similar programs. These may be sponsored by a local hospital, college, community group, church or other organization. They will sometimes offer things like free glucose and cholesterol tests, blood pressure screenings and other things that can be useful to help you see how those parameters are.

A few important additional points.

If you have a screening done, make sure that the results get sent to your primary care doctor. Either ask the site where the screening was performed to send the report to him or get a copy yourself and give a copy to him. Getting the screening done and not letting your doctor(s) know the results isn’t very helpful. You may want to keep a copy for your own records, as well.

And just being screened doesn’t take the place of seeing your doctor on a regular basis.


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Mark Thoma, MD, is a physician who did his residency in internal medicine. Mark has a long history of social activism, and was an early technogeek, and science junkie, after evolving through his nerd phase. Favorite quote: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science... is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!) but 'That's funny.'” - Isaac Asimov

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  • goulo

    Since many readers here probably spend a lot of time online at a computer:

    Be careful about good typing and mousing posture & habits! Regularly check that you have pain-free good freedom of motion, equally in both arms, or you could end up unexpectedly with a frozen shoulder or rotator cuff problem which painfully restricts your movement. (Speaking from painful experience…) :(

  • docsterx

    You might want to try calling your local labs, or local offices of large national labs (Quest, Lab Corps, others.) Some have programs for low- or fixed-income patients. One of the area labs here dropped their charges from $48 to $21 for a patient who had to self-pay and had a limited income.

  • docsterx

    The diet and nutrition counseling could include information on vitamins and supplements.

    For OTC drugs you can use medication interaction software like http://www.drugs.com/drug_interactions.html or similar software products to see if they interact with each other or with Rx meds.

    Vaccination schedule for adults from the CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/hcp/imz/adult.html

  • nicho

    Nice list — for those people whose insurance covers it. My doctor recently wanted a test for me — something he considered necessary and not exotic at all. When he put in in the computer, it told him it wasn’t covered. I’m on Medicare. So, go figure. He was irate that it wouldn’t be covered.

  • Indigo

    Your local fire department can also check your levels for diabetes.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    And good point about vitamins. I remember my doc warning me about Vitamin A and lung cancer (in terms of taking way too much Vitamin A).

  • http://musephotos.wordpress.com/ GarySFBCN

    Nice list! I’ve never had mental health screening and I think it should be at the top of the list.

    I’d add to these lists:

    Review that immunizations, etc, are up to date
    Counseling about all OTC meds, vitamins, etc. that the patient uses

  • bkmn

    One of the most common chronic illnesses is hypertension (high blood pressure). Most have no idea they have hypertension, unless they wind up with multiple nose bleeds for no reason. Treatment is easy and the medications don’t have to cost a lot of money – most are generic and can be dispensed in 90 day containers. The screening for hypertension is to have your blood pressure measured AND there is a location close to your neighborhood that can do it – your local fire department.

  • Indigo

    Around here [Florid’oh], “preventive” medicine has come to mean take-pills-for-something-you-might-develop-someday-maybe because taking pills helps you “prevent” it. What you’re talking about is what a few enlightened medical people in this neck of the swamp now call “holistic.”

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