Young people need yearly wellness checkups, too


By Sue Cody


TeenPreventiveCareAdolescents need wellness checkups, just as infants and adults do.


The Oregon Health Plan (OHP) covers the cost of wellness screenings for adolescents and young adults, says Dr. Safina Koreishi, medical director of Columbia Pacific Coordinated Care Organization (CCO). The Oregon Health Plan recommends that all young people ages 12 to 21 have a checkup at least once a year. And, depending on needs, they may need several visits to their health care provider for preventive care.


It is especially important for teens to catch up on their shots and boosters, because many young people, especially in Oregon, haven’t had the immunizations they need, Dr. Koreishi says. For example, all teens should receive a meningitis and HPV vaccine.


Incentives offered


OHP even offers incentives, like gift cards for Subway and iTunes, for adolescent who get wellness checkups from their clinic or primary care provider.


Many teens don’t visit a doctor unless they are sick or require a sports physical, says Elicia Miller, a registered nurse who is the primary care innovation specialist for the Columbia Pacific CCO, which serves OHP members.


To encourage annual checkups, clinics are now mailing incentive forms directly to young OHP members, asking them to schedule an appointment. Forms are also available at clinics.


“The wellness screening offers tools providers can use to lead to different conversations,” Miller says. The conversations go beyond heart monitoring and physical fitness to include home safety, lifestyle and assessing the potential for drug and alcohol abuse.


“The screening makes it more beneficial for the adolescent and the provider. It’s not just a medical evaluation, but psychosocial as well,” she says.


The teen years are important for health education and risk assessment, Dr. Koreishi says. Adolescents can be screened for safety risks in their home life, education needs, sexual risk taking, drug and alcohol use, along with screening for depression and other disorders.


“Education is important for prevention,” Dr. Koreishi adds. She encourages all her young patients to get a yearly wellness check. “If they start as adolescents, they get in the habit of being comfortable in the health care system. They will continue as adults.”


A lot of the care is preventive, such as immunizations and flu shots, she says. Teens coming in to see their health care provider for a sports physical also could get a complete physical checkup at the same time.


The CCO also works with primary care clinics that have behavioral health practitioners who can help patients with mental health or substance abuse issues, Miller says.


Partly because of the incentives, and parents being more aware of the importance of checkups, there has been an increase in adolescent wellness screenings since the gift cards starting going out two years ago, Miller says. And more parental education could lead to further success.