Monday, December 1, 2014

Modern Physical Exam: The Medical Equivalent of 20 Questions

I just had a complete physical.  I was prepared for it, checked-in, the reception desk confirmed "getting the full deal today." Medicare requirement. No co-pay.

Randy Glasergen cartoon.
It turns out this complete physical had nothing to do with a physical exam as people my age define it and understand it.  It amounted to a game of 20 Questions, maybe a few more or less.  First the nurse, at her computer, not even looking at me, asks her 20 or so questions.  Then the doctor comes in, sits at her computer, and asks her 20-something questions. The questions (some of which overlap) have to do with diet (how many vegetables per day, do you eat fried foods,etc.), excercise, preventive shots, home safety, balance issues, and "mood" (have you felt sad the last few weeks, do you feel stressed, etc.).

The doctor nicely explained this was a Medicare Wellness Exam, which focuses on prevention.  Blood pressure, pulse, listening to heart and lungs, and 20-something questions. Wow. That's it.  I think my stress grew during this exam, because I couldn't believe it was the "full deal."

I left wondering how my health really was. Who knows?   Worsening arthritis? Stomach issues? Any other organs going?  Ears, nose and throat?  I didn't feel like asking. It was a done deal.  I had the medical equivalent of "20 questions." I had my "preventive" physical exam.

A last question: "Would you say you are in excellent, good...."  

"I'm in excellent health," I replied, as the doctor closed her computer and walked out the door, wishing me happy holidays.


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