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Going to the Doctor as an Adult

Jan. 16, 2018
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When was the last time you went to the doctor? Whether or not you felt defensive upon reading that sentence—but, let's be real, especially if you did feel defensive—this article is for you. 

If you’ve moved away from home and are now on your own, it’s important to still visit healthcare providers regularly—yes, providers, plural. Keeping up on your health means more than just seeing your primary care physician (PCP): you should check in with your dentist, gynecologist, or urologist. 

Let’s forget the last time you saw these providers. Really, why should you visit them if you seem healthy? Because you will stay healthier if you do! Revelatory, I know. Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • Choosing a PCP and how often you should see them.
  • Choosing a dentist, gynecologist, etc. and how often you should see them.
  • Alternative services for underinsured or uninsured patients, and budgeting.

FINDING A DOCTOR

If you don’t already have a PCP, choosing one can be overwhelming. There are three things you can do to keep that whelm in check:

  1. Review your insurance provider’s physician directory to see which doctors they cover
  2. Keep track of previous diagnoses and other concerns you have
  3. Choose a doctor with whom you feel comfortable 

The goal is to find a PCP who is permanent or long-term. Online ratings can help with this: look for a doctor who is reportedly knowledgeable, thorough, and respectful, and when you go in for your first visit, make sure the doctor actually listens to your concerns. If you leave their office feeling underserved, it’s probably a good idea to try another physician. Outside of sick visits, you should see your PCP for a physical once a year. 

Another reason you’ll want to feel comfortable with your PCP is that they will recommend dentists, gynaecologists, urologists, endocrinologists, and other healthcare providers to you. If you want to do further research on specialty doctors and surgeons, the above rules and goal remain the same. 

Dentists are just as important to visit as your PCP. You should see yours regularly, ideally twice a year. Seeing a gynecologist or a urologist about sexual and reproductive health is also important. First, determine which specialist is right for you. You can start seeing a gynecologist at 13 to 15 years old, and you should visit them annually. If you choose a urologist, Planned Parenthood advises that you start seeing this healthcare provider when you become sexually active or have questions about your sexual health. 

INSURANCE

If you’re underinsured (or uninsured entirely), there are reasonable alternatives! Look on Google or your city’s Chamber of Commerce site to find free and income-based health clinics near you. This will include county, city, and college clinics. Research each clinic’s services to find which one is right for your needs. 

It’s invaluable to budget for healthcare costs whether you have insurance or not. It’s impossible to know the number of future health care visits you’ll have, but you should estimate. Understand what your insurance covers and what percentage you’re responsible for. This money may all come from you, or it may come from your family/guardians. If you haven’t already, talk with them and come to an agreement about how much they’ll cover. Understanding that you’ve got money squared away for this purpose is a relief and will encourage you to see your healthcare providers regularly.

Remember, the goal is to have permanent or long-term health care providers with whom you’re comfortable. The provider who is personally familiar with your medical history will provide a superior service to you. Look after yourself, friends!

This article was originally published on September 28, 2016.

Cover Image by Jodeci Zimmerman