Every Australian deserves to have access to a General Practitioner (GP) that they can share their most personal information with. We all want the peace of mind that we’re seeing a GP who will be able to diagnose a potentially life-threatening or changing condition. However, finding a good GP can be a daunting experience. Your health and that of your family relies on making the right decision when choosing a GP.
Role of a GP
A General Practitioner is a doctor that treats a range of illnesses and provides health advice and screening to the general population. GPs have a broad range of medical and surgical knowledge and refer patients that require a specialist to diagnose and treat complex conditions. A GP will often coordinate the overall medical care of their patients.
GPs perform a range of tests and procedures including:
- Stitching wounds
- Blood pressure
- Childhood development assessments
- Pap smears
- Breast examinations
- Prostate examinations
- Minor surgeries
- Freezing skin lesions
- Blood sugar
- Lung function tests
A GP will refer a patient who needs other tests such as x-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans, blood tests, stool or urine analysis.
A trusted, long-term relationship between patient and doctor ensures quality healthcare. It’s important to build a rapport with your GP because you feel comfortable and can benefit from open communication. A GP is the best person to advise what measures you can take at your stage of life to prevent illness and disease.
Reasons for Finding a New GP
There are many reasons why people look for a new GP.
Some people like to have easy access to their GP in their local neighbourhood. If they move to another suburb, they may not want to drive to their previous location each time they need to visit their GP.
In the last year, many GPs have had to change from bulk-billing all their patients to paid visits for more patients. Many doctors cite the increased cost of running their practice and low Medicare rebates as the reason for charging for visits.
Dissatisfied with Service
Patients may be dissatisfied with the service they have received from a GP and decide to move to a new clinic due to:
- Long wait time for an appointment
- Short appointments that make them feel rushed
- Poor advice or incorrect diagnosis
How to Find a New GP
Choosing the right GP is an important decision. What’s more important than your health?
A referral from a trusted friend or neighbour can help you narrow the field of potential GPs. If your child goes to the local school, ask parents if they can recommend a GP in the area. Your local pharmacist or other healthcare providers may have dealt with one or more doctors in the area that they can recommend.
Use the internet or social media to research or gain referrals for a new GP. Google doctors' surgeries in your area then look up the practice’s website to do a little research on the doctors. If you belong to a neighbourhood group on social media, ask for recommendations.
You can contact your local Australian General Practice Group (AGPG) to ask for a list of the doctors practising in your suburb or town. The Australian Medical Association (AMA) and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) may also be able to help with information on local GPs.
Make an Appointment
You can always visit one or more GPs for a consultation before making a decision on which GP is your preferred choice for the future. Some people need a face-to-face meeting with a GP to decide if they are a good fit for them. It’s important that you’re comfortable about sharing personal information with your GP.
What to Consider When Choosing a GP
There are a number of things you might consider before deciding on a GP.
Some surgeries are open for longer hours than others. If you find that it’s easier to see a GP after standard working hours or on the weekend, it may be worth looking for a surgery that is open when you need it. For people who have chronic health conditions that can flare at any time, longer open hours may also be important to them.
Some people like to see a doctor who is the same gender as them. Check that there are more than one or two doctors of your preferred gender and whether they work part-time hours. This will ensure there is always a doctor in the clinic that you can see when you need an urgent appointment.
Number of Doctors at the Clinic
Large clinics with a dozen or more doctors working there at different times of the week may make getting an appointment easier. Waiting times can also depend on how many patients a doctor has on their books. If patients aren’t willing to see another GP at the practice and want to wait, it may be a week before they can get in to see their doctor. When you speak to the receptionist, ask if most patients can get in to see their doctor within a day or two or if the wait times are longer.
Cost of Appointments
In some states and local areas, there are fewer GPs bulk billing than in other areas. Most GPs are still bulk billing children under the age of 16 and concession cardholders. However, it’s becoming more common that adults without a healthcare card are billed privately and can claim the Medicare rebate.
If you’re on a tight budget and will find it difficult to pay the gap between the Medicare rebate and the fee, you may need to make a bulk-billing doctor your main priority when deciding on a GP.
While GPs are generalists, many GPs have a special interest or extensive experience in an area of health. It may be child health, men’s health, women’s health, contraception, aged care, palliative care, mental health, infertility, and minor surgery.
If you don’t drive or think you may not drive for much longer, the location of the surgery may be a consideration. The further away the surgery is from home, the more it will cost in taxi fares or the longer it will take for a family member to drive you.
If you can drive, you may want to consider if the surgery has sufficient parking and is easy to get in and out of the car park. Having a chemist nearby the surgery can also make visits easier if any prescriptions can be filled nearby so another trip isn’t required.
Many Australians don’t have English as their first language. Finding a GP that speaks the same language as them can be important to ensure there is no breakdown in communication.
Past Medical Records
Everyone’s medical history is important. When you move to a new GP clinic, it helps if your records can be available to your new GP. Past medical history and treatment are especially important if you have a condition that requires ongoing treatment.
You can ask your old doctor's surgery to supply a summary of your health records to your new GP. Otherwise, you can ask your new doctor to place a request on your behalf.
It's important to know how to choose the general practitioner that will be right for you. Many of these points can be transferred to choosing your preferred practitioner across a range of healthcare and medical services. With any level of HIF extras cover, you have total freedom to choose your preferred dentist, optician, physiotherapist, chiropractor and more.