Navigating Your Health: Annual Wellness Visits vs. Annual Physicals

December 28, 2023

An infographic listing the differences between an annual wellness visit and an annual physical

Maintaining good health is a journey that requires regular check-ins and assessments. Two common terms that often cause confusion are "Annual Wellness Visit” and "Annual Physical." While they may sound similar, they serve different purposes in promoting overall well-being. In this article, we'll explore the distinctions between these two crucial components of preventive health care.

What is an Annual Wellness Visit?

An annual wellness visit is a comprehensive review with a nurse designed to focus on preventive care and long-term health planning. It is a service fully covered by Medicare, all Marketplace health plans, and some other insurance plans, specifically tailored to assess and discuss your overall health and well-being.

Key features of an annual wellness visit include:

  • Health Risk Assessment: During an annual wellness visit, your nurse will conduct a thorough health risk assessment. This involves discussing your medical history, lifestyle, and any potential risk factors that could affect your health.
  • Medication Review: The nurse will review your current medications to ensure they are appropriate and effective. This includes prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, and supplements.
  • Personalized Health Advice: Based on the assessment, your nurse will offer personalized health advice and preventive care recommendations. This may include lifestyle modifications, screenings such as a colonoscopy or mammogram, and vaccinations. If screenings are needed, they can be ordered during the visit.
  • Establishing a Personalized Prevention Plan: The annual wellness visit aims to create a personalized prevention plan tailored to your specific health needs and goals. This plan may involve strategies to manage chronic conditions or recommendations for additional screenings.
  • Advance Care Planning: Advance care planning involves planning for your future health care. It enables you to make some decisions now about the health care you would or would not like to receive if you were to become seriously ill and unable to communicate your preferences or make treatment decisions.

An annual wellness visit does not include the discussion or treatment of a specific health concern or condition, such as the cold or flu. If you would like to speak to your doctor about a specific health concern, please schedule a separate appointment with your provider or clinician.

What is an Annual Physical?

An Annual Physical, on the other hand, is a more traditional and in-depth examination focused on your current health status. It often involves a hands-on assessment and is typically more detailed than an annual wellness visit.

Key features of an Annual Physical include:

  • Comprehensive Physical Examination: During an annual physical, your physician will conduct a thorough physical examination, checking vital signs, heart and lung function, and various other aspects of your overall health.
  • Screening Tests and Labs: Annual physicals may include specific screenings and laboratory tests, such as blood pressure measurement, cholesterol screening, and blood glucose testing, depending on your age and risk factors.
  • Diagnostic Tests: If needed, your physician may order additional diagnostic tests, such as X-rays or EKGs, to assess specific health concerns.
  • Addressing Current Health Issues: Unlike an annual wellness visit, an annual physical often focuses on addressing current health issues and concerns, ensuring that any existing conditions are appropriately managed.

Ultimately, the choice between an annual wellness visit and an annual physical depends on your individual health needs and insurance coverage. It's important to discuss with your health care provider to determine which option aligns best with your health goals and ensures a comprehensive approach to your well-being. If you are interested in scheduling an annual wellness visit, annual physical, or any of MSU Health Care’s services, visit or call (844) 678-7883.