No Excuses: Here’s Why You Should See Your Primary Care Doctor Every Year

Danny Nguyen, MD, is a primary care physician board certified in family medicine. He practices at Inova Medical Group’s primary care practice at the Inova HealthPlex in Ashburn, VA.


If you haven’t been to see your primary care doctor for a while, you’re not alone. Before I went to medical school, even I was sometimes lax about seeing my physician every year. But checking in with your provider at least once a year is an important part of a healthy life.

You probably have valid reasons for putting off a doctor visit. But your reasoning might not be as foolproof as you think. If any of these common excuses sound familiar, I hope you’ll consider the other side of the argument.

I don’t need to go to the doctor; I’m perfectly healthy!

You should check-in with your primary care provider at least once a year, even if you’re feeling great. You might have an under-the-radar issue like high cholesterol or low vitamin D levels that is quietly impacting your health. By recognizing and treating such problems early, we can prevent more serious concerns down the road.

And let’s face it, most of us can make some tweaks to our daily lives to improve our health. Whether it’s eating more vegetables, getting more physical activity or finding better ways to manage stress, your primary care doctor can help you consider lifestyle modifications to optimize your health.

Seeing your doctor regularly also helps you build trust and develop rapport with one another. Having a provider who knows you and understands your wishes and goals can be valuable in the event you do experience a health problem in the future.

I’m worried about what my doctor might find.

It’s not unusual to feel anxious about seeing the doctor, especially if you have a vague sense that something might be wrong. But in most cases, the earlier we discover a problem, the better the odds of treating it successfully. Your primary care provider is there to help you get to the bottom of any issues and figure out a plan. There’s no shame in showing up after a long absence. The important thing is showing up.

I’ve seen a specialist recently. Do I really need to see my primary care doctor, too?

Specialists are great for zeroing in on specific problems or body systems. But primary care doctors bring different skills to the table.

Because it’s their job, specialists often focus on things that are wrong. Primary care providers are more likely to focus on maximizing overall good health. We take a big-picture view, helping you see how different pieces of your health puzzle fit together, and how best to reach your health goals. We can also help you understand and synthesize the information you’re receiving from different specialists.

I’m skeptical of doctors.

Our job is to help you stay healthy in a way that works for you. Some patients are happy to fill a prescription. Others want to avoid pharmaceuticals as much as possible, preferring alternative treatments or lifestyle changes. Ideally, you should trust your practitioner enough to share your concerns and viewpoints. He or she will work with you to keep you healthy on your terms.

I don’t have a primary care doctor.

This is an easy one. Inova’s expert team of primary care providers serves patients at locations across northern Virginia. If you’re ready to be done with excuses and take a step toward good health, find a primary care doctor in your area.

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