4 Things to Do If You Haven’t Been to the Doctor in Years
So, you haven’t been to the doctor in years. No worries, you aren’t alone. It’s estimated that nearly a third of Americans don’t have a primary care physician and about 20% of people haven’t been to a doctor in more than five years.
But now you’ve decided it’s time to fix that. Why?
There could be many reasons. Perhaps it’s recognizing you’re getting older. Or it’s because of a recent health scare for you or a family member. There are many reasons people decide it’s time to find a new PCP.
But with so much time between receiving regular medical care, you’re probably wondering – what should you do? How should you get started? What should you focus on?
The important thing to know is that it’s never too late to find a new primary care doctor and it’s never too late to make your health a priority. Even if you’ve been delaying care for years, you can still make progress toward a healthier future.
At PartnerMD, we’ve worked with countless patients who decided it’s time to take an active role in improving their health. If you’re just getting started in re-prioritizing your health, here are four things you need to do if you haven’t been to the doctor in years.
1. Find the right primary care model for you.
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.
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.
2. Find a primary care physician you trust.
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.
3. Get caught 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 you want to do everything possible to make sure 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 life savers," 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."
4. Then, take action outside the 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 work with new patients all the time who have put off health issues for as long as possible and our doctors and health coaches are skilled at not just putting together a plan but helping you execute it, too.
Through a concierge medicine membership at PartnerMD, you’ll get the primary care experience you deserve – one that combines top-notch clinical care from a physician with trusted information, guidance, and accountability from our wellness team.
It’s all part of how we provide better healthcare for an even better you.