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4 Things to Do If You Haven’t Been to the Doctor in Years

July 23rd, 2024 | 4 min. read

By Melissa Gifford

Male physician chatting with older male patient

Have you been avoiding the doctor for years? Why is that?

Did you know that nearly a third of Americans don’t have a primary care physician, and about  41% of Americans put off going to the doctor? This is a common issue, but now you’ve decided it’s time to change that.

Maybe you’re becoming more aware of your health as you age, or perhaps a recent health scare has motivated you or a family member. Regardless, many people eventually realize the importance of having a primary care physician.

What should you do next? How do you start, and what should you focus on? These questions can seem overwhelming after a long gap in receiving regular medical care.

The good news is that it’s never too late to find a new primary care doctor and prioritize your health. Even if you’ve delayed care for years, you can still make significant progress toward a healthier future.

At PartnerMD, we’ve helped patients who decided to take an active role in improving their health. In this article, we’ll guide you through four essential steps if you haven’t been to the doctor in years. 

1. Match your needs: Discover your ideal primary care model. 

If you haven’t been to a doctor in years, you should know that things in the primary care world have evolved. The traditional model of one physician taking care of thousands of patients isn’t the only option anymore.

You can choose from several alternative primary care models, from concierge medicine to direct pay primary care to online-only platforms.

As you start making your health a priority, think about what you need to be successful.

  • Are you looking for an annual checkup? Or do you want a more involved partner guiding your progress?
  • What is your schedule like? Will it require the convenience of same-day or next-day appointments or telehealth capabilities?

Figure out what services you need to build a successful relationship with your new physician, and that will guide you to the right model for you.

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2. Find a doctor: Choose the right primary care physician.

Whether you’re looking for an internal medicine physician or a family physician, a Medical Doctor or a Doctor of Osteopathy, or even a particular gender, the most important thing is to find a primary care physician you trust.

To get the most out of your primary care experience and your relationship with your doctor, you need to feel comfortable telling them everything – the good, the bad, and whatever is in between.

Because you haven’t been to the doctor in years, you may have a lot to catch up on early on.

And by finding someone you can trust; you can begin to make progress toward your goals quickly. 

Male physician talking with two patients

3. Reclaim your health: Catch up on clinical care.

Maybe you last went to a doctor when you were a spry 22-year-old, and now you’re 32 with two kids and want to do everything possible to ensure you’re there for them for a long time.

Maybe you last went to a doctor when you were 38 and regularly ran marathons, but now you’re 45, your balky knees have limited your activity levels, and you’re worried about taking care of grandkids down the road.

Or maybe you last went to a doctor when you were 58, and now you’re 65 and need an active partner to help you navigate a few health issues so you can live life in retirement the way you want.

Because you haven’t been to a doctor in years, there’s a good chance you’ve missed some routine preventive care, and you may not have an accurate picture of some of the key lab results that can form a clear picture of your health, such as your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, heart function, and more.

“Routine screenings are crucial for maintaining long-term health,” PartnerMD physician Dr. Anthony Fierro says, "If I’m seeing someone for the first time, and they haven’t been to the doctor in years, that’s what I’m focusing on. We’ll work to establish some context to whatever test results we get, and the sooner we can do that, the better."

Whatever the case, finding the right doctor for you is the first step, and then allowing them to get all the information they need as quickly as possible so they can provide the best care possible should be next on your list.

"One important thing for folks who haven’t been to the doctors is to provide a complete medical history," Dr. Fierro says. "Many health issues are genetically linked, and if you have a family history of certain cancers or heart disease, for example, you really need to get to the doctor as soon as possible." 

Female physician talking to patient in office

4. Take action: Build healthy habits outside the doctor's office. 

Finding the right physician is great. So is going to see them and formulating a plan to achieve your goals.

However, the progress you make toward your goals depends on committing to lifestyle changes outside the doctor’s office. That’s one reason we offer health coaching at PartnerMD, so you have an accountability partner to help you work on your goals in between visits with your doctors.

  • If you need to start exercising regularly, start small and take it from there. Doing something you enjoy, whether that’s a daily walk or playing pickleball, will help you stick with it longer.
  • If you need to start eating healthier, head to the grocery store with a specific shopping list and stick to it.
  • If you need better sleep or to reduce your stress, set aside time each day to focus specifically on that.

As we said earlier, it’s never too late to get started, and you can begin to see results quickly, no matter how many years it was in between visits to the doctor.

Make Your Health a Priority at PartnerMD

At PartnerMD, we understand that life can interfere with regular medical care, but it's never too late to prioritize your health.

We specialize in working with new patients who have postponed their health needs, providing comprehensive support to help you get back on track.

Our concierge medicine membership offers a superior primary care experience tailored to your needs. Our dedicated physicians will provide exceptional clinical care, along with reliable information, personalized guidance, and continuous support from our health coaches and wellness team.

Through a concierge medicine membership at PartnerMD, you're not just getting a healthcare provider but a partner committed to helping you achieve and maintain optimal health. Together, we can create a personalized plan and support you in making lasting lifestyle changes.

Ready to learn more about concierge medicine? Download our free Understanding Concierge Medicine e-book today.

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Melissa Gifford

As a Membership Expert at PartnerMD, Melissa Gifford has years of experience in concierge medicine. She guides you through the membership process, ensuring you understand and maximize the benefits of personalized care.