What is an Assessment Physical?

An assessment physical is a process whereby a primary care provider (PCP) performs a physical examination of a patient to check their overall health or for possible signs or symptoms of a medical condition. Assessment physicals are usually done prior to surgery or before beginning treatment for a medical condition. It is also recommended at least once a year for people aged 50 and above.

Who Performs Assessment Physicals?

A PCP or primary care provider may be a doctor, nurse, physician assistant or licensed healthcare professional. The process is typically performed at a doctor’s office, but sometimes at a hospital or healthcare center.

Significance of an Assessment Physical

Assessment physicals are critical in maintaining good health, as they can identify a medical issue or disease requiring intervention that will prevent it from progressing.

What do Assessment Physicals Entail?

Typically, an assessment physical involves the following:

Inspection 
The PCP will visually examine your body, checking different areas such as the head, eyes, chest, abdomen, ears, nose, skin, or nails for any abnormalities.

Palpation
The PCP will touch and feel your body to examine the size, texture, and tenderness of an organ or body part.

Auscultation
The PCP will listen to the sounds of the body systems such as the lungs, heart and intestines using a tool called a stethoscope. Evaluation includes frequency, intensity, duration and quality of the sounds in these areas. Pulses in the arms and legs will be evaluated.

Percussion
The PCP will tap specific areas of the body with the fingers, hands or small instruments to identify abnormalities based on the “hollowness” of the sound produced and the feel of the body part.

Scope of Assessment Physicals

The scope of assessment physicals may vary depending on several factors. However, it mostly includes the evaluation of:

  • General appearance
  • Health or medical history
  • Heart rate or pulse rate
  • Respiration rate
  • Blood pressure index
  • Blood sugar level
  • Joints and/or nerves
  • Muscle strength or body weight

Preparation

Proper preparation for your physicals can help you get the most out of your time with your PCP. Therefore, you are recommended to make a list of:

  • Your current medications
  • Symptoms you are experiencing
  • Medicines you are allergic to
  • Past medical or surgical history
  • Doctors you may have seen recently
  • Any recent lab test results
  • Your lifestyle habits like smoking, etc.
  • Questions you would like to ask

Procedure

Your PCP will ask you to sit or stand and inspect your body for any unusual marks or growths (inspection). Then the PCP may have you lie down to touch and feel your abdomen and other parts of your body (palpation).

This will be followed by auscultation and percussion using a stethoscope while you take deep breaths. At the conclusion, your questions will be answered based on the assessments made during the physical.

Benefits of an Assessment Physical

Assessment physicals help you to:

  • Stay up-to-date on the general status of your health
  • Detect any medical condition at an early stage
  • Prepare for suitable treatment
  • Stay in good physical and mental health