No more excuses! It's time for that wellness checkup


In this article:

  • COVID-19 threw a wrench in daily life — including when and how we saw our doctors.

  • One study found that 41% of respondents missed a doctor’s visit or health care appointment in the early months of the pandemic.

  • Now is the time to get back on track with your health and wellness. An annual wellness checkup at Swedish is a great place to start.

Over the past couple of years, many of us weren't seeing the doctor regularly due to employment issues, home schooling, financial hardships and even the fear of catching COVID-19 in the very place it was being diagnosed and treated. 

A report last year from the Journal of American Medicine (JAMA) backed this up. Researchers found that 41% of people surveyed skipped medical care in the early months of 2020. Here are their reasons why:

  • 63% said their doctor’s office was closed (temporarily or permanently)

  • 57% were worried about getting COVID-19

  • 7% couldn’t pay for services

Respondents reported skipping care for just about everything from annual wellness exams to treatment for new, serious conditions, including:

  • Preventive care

  • Outpatient general medical appointment

  • One or more doses of prescription medicine

  • Outpatient mental health appointment

  • Elective surgery

  • New, severe mental or physical health issue

Now, as cases continue to drop and restrictions ease, it’s more important than ever to get back on track with your health and wellness.

Why well care matters now

Doctors have long touted the benefits of regular wellness exams: You can learn about what diseases you may be at risk for and take steps to reduce that risk. You can start treatment in the early stages of a condition (like high blood pressure) before it leads to serious consequences (like stroke or heart attack).

These benefits aren’t just a sales pitch from your doctor’s office — research backs it up. One study looked at access to preventive care services under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) and found promising results. Most notably, more people than ever before were eligible for (and took advantage of) colon cancer screenings, vaccinations, contraceptive counseling and chronic disease screening.

At the end of the day, early diagnosis of disease and conditions lead to better outcomes, lower costs, and fewer missed workdays because of illness.

“Can’t miss” appointments to book today

It can be overwhelming to think of all the things we missed out on over the past few years of the pandemic. Instead of staring at a laundry list of to-do items, prioritize what’s most important to your well-being and healthy lifestyle. And if you’re not sure where to start, here are a few things to consider putting at the top of your list.

Schedule your annual wellness exam

One of the most important doctor’s appointments you can make is your annual wellness exam. Yes, it’s an appointment to make (and keep) even when you’re feeling good. That’s because your annual physical gives you the opportunity to check in with your doctor. You can discuss any new or concerning symptoms and stay up to date on any necessary health screenings based on your age and risk factors.

Most importantly, your well check doesn’t just cover your physical health. Your doctor will check in on your whole health — including your mental, physical and emotional health. You may talk about a wide range of subjects, including:

  • Heart health – Do you have any risk factors for heart disease, or has your lifestyle changed?

  • Healthy lifestyle – Are you eating healthy and getting enough exercise? Don’t stress — many of us aren’t. A conversation with your doctor may be just the pep talk you need to find the activity you love and the motivation you need to make a change!

  • Healthy weight – Weight can be a taboo subject for most of us. The reality is there is no perfect body type. But your doctor can help you come up with strategies and support to reach a weight that’s right (and healthy) for you.

  • Mental health screenings – Are you struggling with anxiety or depression, like so many have over the past few years?

  • Screenings – Basic screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes can let you know your risk of developing these chronic conditions. And you can start making changes before issues arise.

  • Sexual health – Do you need a new type of contraceptive or screenings for sexually transmitted infections (STI)?

  • Vaccines – Are you up to date on your vaccines, including the flu, COVID and tetanus?

Bottom line? A 30-minute appointment can go a long way in improving your wellness (and your well-being).

Check what cancer screenings you need (based on age)

Today, people are living longer than ever with a cancer diagnosis. A lot of that comes down to effective screening and diagnostic tests. That’s because the sooner cancer is diagnosed, the sooner you can start treatment — and the better your outcome.

It’s not surprising that routine cancer screenings took a hit during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. One study proved that reality. During 2020:

  • Nearly 115,000 people missed colonoscopies

  • Almost 160,000 people skipped mammograms

  • More than 114,000 people missed Pap smears

Get back on track with these critical cancer screenings:

  • Colonoscopy. People at average risk of developing colorectal cancer should begin regular colonoscopies starting at age 45. Again, your doctor can discuss if you need to adjust this schedule based on your individual risk factors.

  • Mammography. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that individuals assigned female at birth have a mammogram every one to two years beginning at age 40 until age 75. Your physician can discuss how your risk factors may influence this schedule.

  • Pap test. The Pap test and HPV screenings have dramatically reduced the rate of cervical cancer. The ACOG recommends individuals assigned female at birth begin regular cervical cancer screenings at age 21 and continue them through age 65.

As we continue to live with COVID-19, providers and health care systems are working to make care even easier and more accessible. At the end of the day, we’re here to help you reach your health and wellness goals. 

Find a doctor

If you have questions about wellness visits, contact Primary Care at Swedish. We can accommodate both in-person and virtual visits.

Whether you require an in-person visit or want to consult a doctor virtually, you have options. Swedish Virtual Care connects you face-to-face with a nurse practitioner who can review your symptoms, provide instruction and follow up as needed. If you need to find a doctor, you can use our provider directory.

Join our Patient and Family Advisory Council.

Additional resources 

Men’s health: It’s never too early to start annual exams

Women’s health: Changes for every phase of life

Melanoma is a common cancer. Learn about signs and treatments

Understanding mental health counseling

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

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About the Author

Our job is to provide you with the resources to keep you healthy, and as such the Swedish Primary Care team offers a mix of clinical advice based on decades of experience, tips and health hacks to prevent illnesses, and recommendations for specialty care services when needed.

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