Definition and Overview

A new patient exam refers to the initial examination a patient undergoes during his first visit to a doctor. It is beneficial for any new patient with health concerns. The purpose of the visit is to address any health problem or determine the causes of symptoms that the patient is experiencing. The exam involves an in-depth check of the patient’s medical history, comprehensive exams on specific parts of the body where the symptoms originate from, as well as x-rays and other imaging scans. This exam can help detect any diseases that the patient may have.

Who Should Undergo and Expected Results

A new patient exam is an important step for any patient who is experiencing unexplained symptoms or suffering from undiagnosed health problems, provided that these are not urgent or life-threatening. The exam is performed by any medical professional, such as a general practitioner, a family doctor, an internist, or even a dentist.

For urgent concerns, the patient’s first visit should be directly to the emergency room, which is staffed by medical professionals who are trained to handle life-threatening conditions.

The goals of this visit are:

  • To assess the patient’s current health status
  • To detect and diagnose any existing health problems
  • To address any symptoms that causes some trouble for the patient
  • To develop a treatment plan, if necessary
    The treatment plan will explain the findings of the exam in complete detail, including the doctor’s treatment recommendations and the potential consequences of not seeking treatment.

How Does the Procedure Work?

Medical Exam

To achieve the goals of a new patient exam, the visit is consists of:

  • Comprehensive review of medical history
  • Height and weight measurement
  • Blood pressure reading
  • Cholesterol and glucose level testing
  • Physical examination of the eyes, ears, neck area (for throat and lymph nodes), chest area (for the heart and lungs), and abdominal organs
  • Blood work and lab tests (some doctors may be able to perform these tests on their own and in the same clinic, but some may ask the patient to go to a separate laboratory with a request slip.)
  • X-rays
  • Other imaging scans
  • Special screenings, such as cardiac or cancer screening, possibly upon the patient’s request or based on the doctor’s opinion especially when the patient is at risk of certain diseases
    Depending on their age, symptoms, and risk factors, male patients may require a number of special tests, such as:

  • Testicular exam for testicular cancer

  • Rectal exam for prostate cancer
    Such in-depth examination of various aspects of patient’s health gives the doctor, who is seeing the patient for the first time, all the information he will need to ensure patient’s health and well-being. The average healthy person is advised to undergo a physical examination at least once a year. This annual checkup is a vital part of health care as it ensures that any disease or health problem is detected and resolved at the soonest possible time, regardless of whether they are symptomatic or not.

Dental Exam

A similar initial exam is also conducted when a patient visits a dentist for the first time. However, this involves different set of routine tests and examinations, which typically include the following:

  • Taking photos of the patient’s external facial features and smile
  • Comprehensive dental x-ray including full-mouth and panoramic x-rays
  • Intra-oral pictures
  • Soft tissue exam (also considered as screening for oral cancer)
  • Physical examination of the teeth
  • Periodontal screening (or physical examination of the gums)
  • Physical examination of jaw joints and muscles
    For dental checkups, the recommended frequency of visits to the dentist is at least once every six months. Just like medical checkups, dental checkups also help detect early signs of problems such as tooth decay, and allow dentists to treat problems when they are still at a more manageable stage.

Possible Risks and Complications

A new patient exam consists of routine tests and examinations, all of which are not expected to cause any pain. Some of them may be slightly uncomfortable at the most. All tests are also guaranteed safe for any patient, regardless of age or health condition.

Some patients may see new patient exams as stressful, uncomfortable, or awkward, which is understandable as they will be meeting a new doctor and will be expected to divulge personal and private information about their health. However, this is a vital step towards proper health maintenance or treatment, and may result in finding a doctor who will serve as the patient’s primary care provider.


  • World Organization of Family Doctors
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