By the time you’ve joined the ranks of Medicare participants, you probably have a good idea of what to expect from a doctor visit. Hop on the scale. Check your height. Record your blood pressure. Submit to some poking and prodding. Get a diagnosis, prescription, referral, or follow-up appointment as necessary. Go on about your day.

Ideally, these doctor visits are efficient, thorough, and help you stay healthy — or get you on the mend ASAP if something is wrong.

The “Welcome to Medicare” Visit: A Change of Pace

However, after enrolling in Medicare, you should anticipate a different kind of doctor visit — the “Annual Wellness Visit” or “Welcome to Medicare” visit. Yes, you can still count on weight, height, and blood-pressure measurements. But rather than just walking out with a diagnosis, prescription, or referral, you’ll get something even better — a plan.

Doctor consulting with senior couple

That’s because, instead of the typical poking and prodding, you can instead expect to have an in-depth conversation with your doctor about several key aspects of your health. This conversation will cover a lot of ground, and the information shared will help you and your doctor formulate the best possible plan to address your specific health needs and goals.

The visit is based on a standard questionnaire, though it probably won’t feel like you’re following a set-in-stone script. That said, you should definitely expect your doctor to ask about the following:

  • Your medical history, including your family’s medical history
  • Doctors and providers you’ve recently seen or are currently seeing
  • Your current health conditions
  • Medications you’re taking

Armed with this information, your doctor will begin devising a plan and offering advice to help you throughout the next 12 months. You’ll be made aware of potential risk factors as well as how you should handle them. You may also be able to take advantage of wellness courses aimed to help you quit smoking, learn about proper nutrition, lose weight, etc. Based on your age, personal history, and family history, your doctor will recommend appropriate screenings to ensure you remain healthy by catching potentially significant problems in early, more easily treatable stages. When it comes to conditions like cancer, the use of regular screenings can improve survivability by 90 percent.

Get the Most Out of Your Visit: Ask Questions

Remember, your Annual Wellness Visit or Welcome to Medicare visit and future visits should not be interrogations. Get the most out of these visits by coming prepared with questions that concern you. Naturally, you may have concerns based on family history, medications, or risk factors like high blood pressure. But this is also an opportunity to discuss basic lifestyle changes — after all, the transition to Medicare is often about so much more than health insurance.

Consider asking your doctor about:

  • Changes in your diet or eating habits
  • Exercises or activities you may want to do and how they might affect you
  • Whether you should take supplements

See the sidebar for this article for additional tips to prepare for a doctor’s visit.

Doctor explaining prescription to senior manA Prescription for Confidence

When you leave your welcome visit and future annual wellness visits, you should have your doctor’s written plan of action for taking care of your health. Take that plan and move forward confidently, knowing risk factors and concerns are being taken into account to ensure you enjoy a healthy life.

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