Parents know to take their child to the pediatrician when they're sick. But why is it important for kids to continue to get an annual well-child visit checkup even when they appear healthy?
Quite often when I tell parents their child is overdue for a well visit, parents are like, "But my kid is healthy and isn't due for shots. So why do they need a well visit?" Well, why do you need an annual physical? A well visit for kids is just like an annual physical for adults but so much more.
During a well-child visit, your pediatrician will review how your child is growing. Are they on track? Are they overweight? Are they underweight? Are they due for any vaccines you may not have realized they're due for? How are they eating, sleeping, getting along with others in the family, their peers? Is the home a safe place, or are there red flags for childproofing or violence that we need to address?
At ages 18 and 24 months, we screen for autism. During their infant and early childhood years, we ask screening questions about their development as well to make sure they are meeting their milestones. Starting at age 12, we screen for safety, depression, sexuality issues, and substance use. These visits also reinforce to your child the need to keep on top of their healthcare needs by helping to establish a good relationship with your child's doctor and show how even when they're doing well, it's important to keep regular appointments for preventive care.
Just a heads up though. While you may want to save a bunch of your questions about acute or chronic needs that your child has for their well visit, your pediatrician will probably ask you to schedule another appointment to address those. We realize it can be inconvenient, but appointments are given a certain amount of time, and we do not want to rush through your concerns because of time limitations. Asking you to schedule another appointment will make sure that we're able to thoroughly address all of your concerns.
Another reason you may be asked for a separate appointment is that a well-child visit is a preventive visit and it is billed as such. Insurance companies often do not charge for a co-pay for a preventive visit. Acute or chronic issues, medication refills, and follow-up visits are billed differently. Insurance companies do not like when the two are combined. And you will either get a separate co-pay if you have private insurance, or Medicaid could deny the charges if your child is Medicaid.
In short, well-child visits can help make sure your child is on the right track to being and staying healthy. For other concerns, be sure to schedule appointments as needed with your child's pediatrician.
updated: July 6, 2020
originally published: August 13, 2018
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