For most people, a good general practitioner in medicine is a necessity in life and more so for those experiencing chronic health issues or serious health issues. An ongoing positive relationship with a GP can be priceless and therefore it is important that you have all the necessary information before you choose one.
The best doctors can go beyond mere diagnosis to coordinate your healthcare completely by asking for the right tests and referring you to specialists, who, in his opinion are right in your circumstances. A good GP helps you enjoy better health and limit unnecessary visits to the hospital.
The process of finding a good GP
You have never thought of a GP, or you are moving to a new neighbourhood or you are entirely new to the city and there can be a host of other reasons to find a new GP to take care of your health and perhaps the health of your family members too. There are several ways to accomplish this task including:-
- Asking your present doctor for references
- Asking your neighbours, friends, or family for recommendations
- Asking a pharmacist or other medical professionals who deal with doctors in your neighbourhood
- Contact the AGPN (Australian General Practice Network) who will provide you with a list of doctors with practice in your neighbourhood. Some divisions of the network may also provide additional information like expertise, interest and languages spoken about the doctors
- Contact other professional medical associations if need be
Things you should know beforehand
Once you have a list of doctors to be contacted, visit their offices personally and take into account the following factors:-
Location – Location – Ease of accessibility, traffic snarls, by-lanes, surroundings, proximity to your home/workplace etc. For instance, if you’re local to Brunswick area, you can choose Moreland General Practice or others, which are local to your area.
Availability – If the GP you choose is also available during extended hours, it can be beneficial particularly for those with a chronic condition with a potential to flare up at intervals or in instances when it is difficult to take off from work during the business hours stipulated. As opposed to surgeries, medical centres tend to work longer hours, but you may not be able to see the same doctor during all your visits except when you have sought a specific appointment.
In the event of your needing medical attention or a prescription outside regular hours of your doctor, you may contact the clock medical centre, and a different GP may attend to your needs. In this case, you should keep your regular GP/doctor informed of the visit and medication prescribed so that your GP can ensure continuity in care and more so if you are affected by a chronic condition.
It is desirable to confirm if the GP you choose also offers home visits. This could be important particularly for elderly people and those with a history of chronic health issues.
Most GPs are comfortable with the English language. However, if you are comfortable with another language, it is desirable that you look for a GP who can speak your tongue too.
Gender of the GP may be important for some individuals. According to a 2005 study, female GPs and male GPs older than 65 years tend to provide longer consultations.
Get a good look at the premises of the GP you choose. Are the rooms tidy and clean? If you also need to take your kids along when you go for consultations with the GP, does the office provide a kids area where they can play while you wait for your turn?
Brochures and posters in the waiting hall of the GP go to show that the practice appreciates that public health education is important. You can also look out for handouts detailing information like appointments, home visits, fees and repeat prescriptions etc.
Look for any specialities that the GP you choose may be qualified in or other expertise that could be beneficial to you. For instance, a GP with diploma qualification in paediatrics or Obstetrics can be immensely useful for younger individuals having a family or those planning to raise a family.
GPA and AGPAL are agencies invested with the authority of accrediting GPs in Australia and independently rating GPs before awarding accreditation for practising. Look for the accreditation logo or certificate on display in the GP’s office.
When you entrust your healthcare to a new GP, it is essential that he has access to your medical records. You can either authorize your earlier GP to provide the new GP with a summary of your health records or ask the new GP to seek this information on your behalf. In instances where your GP closes down his practice or dies, access to your medical records can be overwhelming. Only some states in Australia have laws in place to deal with such a situation. You must, therefore, be forewarned of this possibility and know how your medical records can be accessed by you or a new GP you may find.
Gain a good understanding of how health insurance works for you. In most situations, there are buckets of express and implied conditions on what you pay, what you are reimbursed, what you are not reimbursed and so forth. It can be somewhat overwhelming to read through and understand your policy document. But, it is worth the effort to set aside time and understand every single word that is written in that document. After you finish reading, do not forget to look for the fine print too. The insurance business is created that way and you can blame only yourself if you made a mistake without knowing the covenants.