Preventive Visit or Office Visit?


As you schedule you and your family’s next primary care appointments, we’ve clarified the differences between preventive care and office visits.

Preventive Visit

A preventive visit is a yearly, prevention-focused appointed intended to prevent illnesses and detect health concerns early, before symptoms are noticeable. Preventive visits could be an annual physical, well-child exam, Medicare wellness exam or welcome to Medicare visit, and insurance companies are required to cover preventive care services at no cost to patients. During your appointment, your provider will review your overall health and well-being. Depending on your age, services may include:

  • Complete physical exam

  • Screenings, assessments and counseling
           - Blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol tests
           - Pelvic exams, Pap smear
           - Prostate and colorectal cancer screenings
           - Sexually-transmitted disease testing
           - Alcohol, depression, obesity and tobacco counseling
  • Select Immunizations

“Preventive visits are important for the overall maintenance of your health,” Patricia Newland, M.D., UnityPoint Health, says. “It is a great time to focus on prevention of disease and improving lifestyle, and these visits can help identify problems early, while they are easily treatable.”

Office Visit

An office visit is a problem-focused appointment designed to discuss new or existing health problems or symptoms. To address these specific health concerns, your provider may order tests, prescribe medication, refer you to a specialist or provide advice and education. Office visits are covered by a standard insurance co-pay or deductible.

“If you have an illness or injury, you would schedule an office visit. This type of appointment is also used to manage chronic diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension or asthma. Your physician or provider will determine what tests, medications or referrals may be needed to diagnose, monitor and treat your individual condition,” Dr. Newland says.

What This Means for You

Telling the difference between a preventive visit and an office visit can be confusing, especially if you schedule a preventive visit and end up receiving treatment for a certain health issue, like blood pressure concerns or frequent headaches. To save time and eliminate an extra appointment, some patients prefer combining both a preventive visit and an office visit all in one.

Regardless of what type of appointment you schedule, you should always discuss health questions or concerns with your provider. If you have questions about the type of appointment you need, please call your UnityPoint Health primary care provider.

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