How to choose best general practitioner

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.

Man with pens and stethoscope

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.

Home visits

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.

Language

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

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.

Premises

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?

Information

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.

Specialties

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.

Accreditation

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.

Medical records

file with medical record written on it 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.

Insurance

medicare logo

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.

 

Why pre-pregnancy counselling may be important for you

Pregnant Belly of girl Pregnancy counselling is a great measure that helps couple follow the known path – eat right, learn about the ovulation calendar, days when fertility is at its best, benefits of more frequent sex etc. But, often, couples tend to focus on the routine and obvious things and fail to consider the benefits of a pre-pregnancy counselling session which has the potential to produce the desired results in a more convenient and methodical way. Let us, therefore, explore why pre-pregnancy counselling can be important for you:-
Pre-pregnancy counselling affords an opportunity to delve into potential concerns that could be pre-existing or present a challenge to pregnancy. These could include problems experienced in an earlier pregnancy, past or present health concerns of both partners that could impact conception and measures needed to address those concerns. Thankfully, many of the problems that occur during the first pregnancy may not be repetitive. However, pre-pregnancy counselling gains importance to avoid the risk of potential recurrence.

Best candidates for pre-pregnancy counselling

Pre-pregnancy counselling is ideal in any one or more of the following situations:-

  • Repeated attempts at getting pregnant not producing desired results
  • Previous instances of stillbirths and miscarriages
  • Birth defects in children born earlier
  • Exposure to environmental toxins for one or both partners potentially impacting conception or development of the foetus during pregnancy
  • Expectant mother suffering from diabetes or other health issues like low blood pressure, hypertension etc.
  • Both partners having medical problems such as with liver, kidney or heart
  • Expectant mother having undergone any surgery like heart surgery or surgery for renal failure.
  • Any autoimmune diseases are affecting the expectant mother.

Type of tests carried out as part of a pre-pregnancy counselling

Doctor using the microscope

One or more of the following tests may be recommended as part of the pre-pregnancy counselling:-
Routine blood test –  Dr Shelley Rowlands, an obstetrician at East Melbourne Obstetrics and Gynaecology, says a routine blood test can be advised for both partners to understand any underlying health issues needing attention and having the potential to impact conception/pregnancy.
CBC Count: This test is to help extinguish the chances of anaemia in the mother since low haemoglobin numbers can adversely impact foetal health and development upon successful conception. In most situations, such a condition, if present, can be effectively addressed when it is detected before conception to ensure good health of the foetus and a smooth pregnancy.

Antibody test for Rubella

This test addresses concerns about antibody to German measles or Rubella and vaccination is recommended in instances where the woman is not immune to the disease. Ideally, the woman is advised to avoid pregnancy till the vaccine has completely cleared from the blood which could take about four weeks.

Thyroid tests

Impairment of thyroid functions can potentially trigger fertility issues in women. The symptoms are often subtle in the case of thyroid dysfunction and can be detected only through tests. If a woman conceives without ensuring optimal thyroid functions, it has the potential to affect the baby’s IQ and neurodevelopment.

Thalassemia screening

This test may be recommended for both parents to identify any thalassemia gene. When both parents have this condition, they may have a 25% chance of the baby being affected.
Blood pressure machine on patient armVitamin deficiency – Vitamin deficiency is common in women and low level of vitamin B12 or vitamin D can impact pregnancy or cause trouble during lactation. Therefore, it is essential to correct such deficiencies during pregnancy and better still, during conception itself.
Pap smear test – This is a routine test during pre-pregnancy counselling to ascertain the presence of cancerous growth around the cervix which could be harmful to the baby during the process of delivering the baby.
Genetic counselling – Genetic counselling is aimed at identifying past stillbirth, recurrent miscarriage, congenital defects in child/children born earlier, restricted growth of the uterus etc. and measures initiated to prevent recurrence of such issues during a new pregnancy.

Preparing for pre-pregnancy counselling

Preparing for your pre-pregnancy counselling is simple and easy. In the first place, you will need to collate all your medical records in one place. This is particularly important if you had an earlier instance of surgery, failed pregnancy, or any ongoing medication. Similarly, your husband/partner should also accompany you with his medical records and details of any medication he is taking.

Relax and keep an open mind

Remember that the investigation and analysis by your doctor may not always go in your favour. However, you should not be disappointed and should instead look at options available and speak to your partner about the next course of action that is open to you.
Disclose all relevant information to your doctor
You should make sure that your doctor has all relevant information that could impact the reproductive system in you and your partner. All previous vaccinations, hospitalization, and medication are relevant to determine if you are fit and healthy for getting pregnant.

Conclusion

Most of us are aware of the complex process of the human reproductive system. Although women, in general, are capable of combating the physical changes and demands across the pregnancy and the lactating state, some women suffer from various health issues impacting their ability to conceive healthy babies and carry the pregnancy safely through the birthing process. Some women also suffer recurrent pregnancy losses and that makes it even more essential to take pre-pregnancy counselling to identify and eliminate potential causes leading up to pregnancy losses. In some situations, a series of interventions may be essential at the pre-conception stage and close monitoring of a future pregnancy. The overall objective of pre-pregnancy counselling is to ensure the health and well being of both the mother and the foetus by initiating preventive measures and making lifestyle changes where necessary.