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Well-Adult Exams with No Appointment Needed

Many individuals choose urgent care as their go-to location when sick or injured. After all, centers like GoHealth Urgent Care offer convenient, walk-in appointments late into the evening and on weekends. But did you know urgent care centers also offer wellness exams? 

Often referred to as a “physical,” “physical exam” or “annual physical,” a well-adult exam is not a “problem visit.” You don’t have to be ill or in pain to receive an exam. Instead, the primary purpose of a wellness exam is prevention – checking for any possible issues and offering solutions, proactively. 

Do I Need a Well-Adult Exam? 

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 92% of Americans believe an annual checkup is important for their health. Within the medical community, however, opinions vary. 

Some providers will argue that if a patient is reasonably healthy, there’s no need for a yearly visit. Others believe an annual physical examination can help detect medical conditions — like borderline high blood pressure, prediabetes, or enlarged and potentially cancerous lymph nodes — before they become more severe or life-threatening. 

When it comes down to it, the need for a physical exam is highly individual. Preventative health recommendations based on age, sex and lifestyle can serve as a good guide for how often to check in with your doctor. 

What Can I Expect at My Checkup? 

Regardless of whether you choose to visit your family doctor or an urgent care center for your next well-adult appointment, your expectations should be the same. Providers typically follow certain physical examination requirements as best practices for all wellness visits.

To ensure you get the most out of your appointment, it’s helpful to gather information such as any medications or over-the-counter supplements you’re taking, medical test results or surgeries, and the names and contact information for other doctors you’ve seen recently in preparation for your visit. This way, should you be asked to fill out new or updated patient paperwork, you’ll be prepared. Plus, by sharing all relevant health information with your physician, it’s easier for him or her to compile a more complete picture of you as the patient. 

What Is Included in a Well-Adult Exam? 

One of the main benefits of receiving a regular checkup is that your doctor performs a comprehensive, head-to-toe physical examination to make sure all parts of your body are in optimal working condition. But it also gives you the opportunity to have a candid discussion with your physician about everything related to your health. 

Before seeing your physician, a nurse or medical assistant will gather some basic information like your height and weight. From these measurements, it’s easy for your doctor to calculate your body mass index (BMI) and cross reference a BMI chart to determine whether your weight is considered normal, underweight, overweight, or morbidly obese. Since falling into the overweight or obese categories can put you at higher risk for hypertension (a.k.a. high blood pressure), abnormal cholesterol levels, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, part of your visit will involve a discussion about your diet and exercise routine.

A nurse might also review parts of your medical history in preparation for a more detailed conversation with your doctor, as well as take vital signs like your blood pressure, pulse, temperature, and respiratory rate. 

Measuring Important Vital Signs

Some of the first tests performed when you’re called back for your appointment, vitals are measurements of integral bodily functions that act as barometers and give your provider a quick peek into your overall health. By tracking your vitals annually over an extended period of time, your doctor can assess risks for any number of possible health conditions. 

  • Blood Pressure – Checking your blood pressure with an inflatable blood pressure cuff gives your provider two readings: the top reading is the maximum pressure your heart exerts while beating (systolic pressure) and the bottom reading is the amount of pressure in your arteries between beats (diastolic pressure). The American Heart Association considers a reading of 120/80 or less normal. Because high blood pressure can cause your heart and arteries to work harder than they should — adding extra strain and potentially leading to heart attacks, strokes and blood clots — it’s important to monitor your blood pressure, especially if you have a family history of hypertension. 
  • Pulse – Your doctor will measure your pulse with a finger pulse oximeter that fits on your index finger. A healthy heart rate for adults typically falls between 60-100 beats per minute (bpm). By measuring your pulse, a physician can gauge heart health and determine if there’s a need to further test you for underlying problems or refer you to a cardiologist.
  • Body Temperature – Easily measured with an oral or digital forehead thermometer, your temperature usually remains quite stable thanks to the body’s amazing ability to monitor your internal temperature. A normal average is about 98.6°F (37°C), with temperature spikes often indicating an infection in the body. 
  • Respiratory Rate – Your respiratory rate is the number of breaths per minute. In adults, medical professionals are looking for about 16-20 breaths per minute. Increased breathing rates can be a precursor to cardiovascular issues. 

Discussing Your Family History and Reviewing Lifestyle Choices 

While the word “physical” suggests that a wellness visit is limited to a hands-on examination, it also involves frank discussions with your doctor. He or she might ask about medical issues — like certain types of cancer, heart disease, stroke, or diabetes — that run in your family, making note to watch for any warning signs while treating you. 

Your provider will also likely ask about your lifestyle as it pertains to things such as smoking, alcohol and drug use, sexual activity, sleeping patterns, diet, and exercise. 

It’s important you’re as honest and thorough as possible during these discussions, since omitting key details about your family history or lifestyle can make it more difficult for your provider to catch medical issues in their early stages. Should you have any questions about your genetics or lifestyle choices, this is the opportune time to ask your doctor.

Performing a Physical Assessment

You can expect your provider to carefully observe your general appearance during a physical examination and even perform some basic tests while you’re in the office. Usually a doctor will start from the top of your body and work his or her way down to your feet, examining for abnormalities that could be helpful in diagnosing disease.  

Components of a physical exam include:

  • Inspection – This is when your doctor looks at specific areas of your body to ensure normal color, shape and consistency. He or she might begin with a head, ears, eyes, nose, and throat (HEENT) physical examination, followed by inspection of your neck, stomach, legs, muscles, elbows, and joints.
  • Palpation – As part of the HEENT exam, your provider will palpate or feel your head and neck for tenderness, deformity or bulges. An assessment could also include palpation of your lymph nodes, chest wall or abdomen.
  • Percussion – Your provider will percuss or tap areas like your abdomen, back and chest wall, listening for sounds that may indicate there’s fluid in your lungs or a mass in your stomach. 
  • Auscultation – Using a stethoscope, your doctor will listen to your heart, lungs, neck, and abdomen to identify if there are any problems present.
  • Neurologic Exam – Your provider will assess your cranial nerves, motor function, sensory function, and reflexes to determine whether there’s any impairment with your nervous system.

Receiving Immunizations and Scheduling Labs

Because vaccines can greatly reduce the probability of contracting infectious diseases, which can pose a major threat to your health, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends specific immunizations for adults, including the annual flu shot. Your well-adult visit is a great time to receive or update any vaccinations you need.

It’s also a great time to review lab procedures that are recommended for someone of your sex and age. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force – an independent group of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine – uses a letter grading system to rate which screenings are most essential.

Here’s a list of top tests recommended for men:

  • Annual blood pressure test
  • Cholesterol screening every 5 years after age 20
  • Colonoscopy every 2-5 years starting around age 40
  • Fecal occult blood test yearly after age 50
  • Eye exam every 2-4 years, if you’re having issues
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years, then every 10 years at 50+
  • Prostate cancer screening starting between ages 40-50 depending on risk factors

And here’s a list of key screenings recommended for women for a full female examination:

  • Annual blood pressure test
  • Cholesterol screening every five years after 20
  • Pap smear every 3-5 years, depending on age
  • Mammogram every 1-2 years at age 40, then annually after age 50
  • Colonoscopy every 2-5 age years starting around 40
  • Fecal occult blood test yearly after age 50
  • Eye exam every 2-4 years if you’re having issues
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years, then every 10 years at 50+

While you are able to receive certain laboratory testing at your doctor’s office or urgent care center, other procedures may require you schedule an appointment with a specialist.

How Much Does a Wellness Visit Cost?

There’s no one-size-fits-all rule when it comes to medical costs – and it’s no different with well-adult exams. The cost for a physical exam depends on factors like your insurance as well as the rate of an individual medical provider. Appointments typically range anywhere from $50 to hundreds of dollars a visit, but the good news is that most insurance plans cover one wellness visit per policyholder each year.

To determine what out-of-pocket expenses you will be responsible for, it’s helpful to review the details of your insurance plan. You should also feel free to contact your local GoHealth Urgent Care center to get answers. While we offer convenient, walk-in appointments, we’re happy to discuss costs before you stop by. Use the widget below to find the center closest to you.

Key Points to Review

It’s simple: catching a medical issue early enough can mean a world of difference for your health and may significantly reduce any possible complications down the road. That’s why having a regular well-adult exam at an urgent care center or with your family doctor is essential. Even if you receive a clean bill of health, you’ll have the peace of mind to get back to doing what you enjoy.


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