What is preventive health care?

Preventive health care is extremely important in the prevention of many different health issues and chronic diseases. It is used before any symptoms occur and it generally takes place during routine screenings.

However, preventive health care can often get confused for diagnostic health care, because of their similarities. Diagnostic health care is generally used after symptoms of an illness have already occurred in order to officially diagnose that issue. For a better understanding of what both preventive and diagnostic health care are, and to understand the differences between them, read the sections below.

The primary goal of preventive health care is to completely prevent you from developing a disease or other health issue by using screenings and tests to discover any abnormalities before they develop into an issue. Preventive care generally occurs as part of an annual wellness check or as ordered by your primary care physician when you reach a certain age. If screenings and tests for preventive care are used regularly, the chances of developing a disease decrease drastically.

A few examples of preventive care include screenings, lab tests, immunizations and other services designed to detect problems before you notice any symptoms. These tests may be used to test your body mass index (BMI), blood pressure and cholesterol. In addition, blood tests may be done to test for diabetes or certain types of cancers, especially if you have these types of conditions in your family history.

Ideally, preventive screenings will be performed so that diseases and other medical issues can be avoided or at least delayed in their onset. Preventive health care is a big benefit to everyone regardless of race, sex, age or current health status because different diseases can affect you at nearly any time.

If preventive health care measures are utilized appropriately, you and your family can enjoy a healthier and better quality of life while also enjoying the financial benefits as well. Preventive health care is generally covered by insurance, so you will not likely have to pay anything out of pocket to have the tests and screenings performed. Plus, the prevention of illnesses will save you a lot of money that may have needed to be spent on medical treatment if that illness had not been detected ahead of time.

What is diagnostic medical care?

Diagnostic medical care is similar to preventive health care in some ways, and it can often be confused for preventive because of the similar tests and timing. However, diagnostic is different in that it is generally needed once you have already noticed symptoms. Diagnostic health care involves the treatment or diagnosing of a problem that you are having by monitoring symptoms, monitoring current problems or even following up on abnormal preventive test results. Diagnostic medical care is designed to diagnose the issue at hand so that the appropriate treatment options can be discussed and initiated.

A few examples of diagnostic medical care include screenings, lab tests and other services designed to detect problems after you notice symptoms. This could be a colonoscopy used to check for colon cancer after rectal bleeding has been experienced or a blood glucose test after symptoms of diabetes such as frequent urination or blurred vision have occurred.

The big benefit of diagnostic medical care is that you can determine whether or not you have an illness or disease so that treatment can begin quickly. If a disease is detected, the earlier that you are diagnosed with that problem the faster treatment can begin and the more likely that treatment will be effective in curing the condition. Many chronic diseases are completely treatable if they are detected in the earliest stages, so it is very important to have the appropriate diagnostic tests done when they are recommended to you.

Preventive Care Versus Diagnostic Care

Although many of the tests are similar between both preventive and diagnostic medical care, it is the reasoning behind why the test is needed that generally determines whether it is preventive or diagnostic. For example, if you are an adult woman who has reached 45 years of age, you will typically get a recommendation to get a mammogram to check for any breast tissue abnormalities that could develop into breast cancer. This is a perfect example of preventive health care because it is a routine screening that is necessary for all middle-aged women. However, if you were recommended by your doctor to have a mammogram because you have noticed a lump in your breast, the mammogram would be considered diagnostic because it is used to follow up on existing conditions or symptoms.

Diagnostic care services may also occur directly after a preventive health care screening has been conducted in order to follow up on concerns and further diagnose the issue. For example, an older individual getting a colonoscopy is a standard routine, but the discovery of polyps will require further tests and treatment. If the colonoscopy was simply performed because the individual was between 50 and 75 years of age, then the colonoscopy is considered preventive, but if a polyp was found during the test, all tests after that result will be considered diagnostic.

Why does it matter?

The difference between diagnostic and preventive health care is actually very important because they are each billed differently, and this can affect the coverage offered by your health insurance provider. Depending on the types of services you receive, your insurance charges will be different. Oftentimes, preventive health care services are covered 100 percent by most insurance plans, and there are many preventive care services where no copays are required, no matter what your deductible is.

Diagnostic health care, however, is not usually covered 100 percent and diagnostic services are generally still subject to cost sharing charges such as copays, coinsurance or deductibles. Therefore, it is crucial that you speak with your physician in order to determine whether a recommended service is considered diagnostic or preventive so that you can be prepared for the payment, if necessary. The correct category for the different services you may participate in can get very confusing, so it is always helpful to ask your physician for clarification so that you have a better understanding of what to expect.

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