If there’s one life decision that’s worth taking a little time over, it’s choosing a GP.
The right GP can make a big difference to how healthy you are and may ultimately save your life.
As well as diagnosing illness, a good GP can draw your attention to problems you never knew mattered, decide if you need certain tests, refer you to the right specialists, monitor your progress, offer reassurance or advice, and keep you out of hospital or limit the care you need there.
If you have a chronic or serious illness, your GP relationship will be especially important.
So how to choose?
First off, consider asking around. You may have friends who all swear by a particular GP, or one they think you should steer clear of.
Other health professionals like pharmacists or physiotherapists might also have suggestions.
And there are now many online rating and review sites too — although critics argue these are easily exploited by vested interests.
Other early considerations include the practice’s opening hours, whether it has arrangements in place for after-hours care, and if it’s in a convenient location for you.
Don’t settle on the first GP you see if it doesn’t feel like a good fit.
How they bill?
Do you want someone who bulk bills, meaning they charge the standard Medicare fee for their service so you won’t have to pay anything out of pocket? Or is this a less critical issue for you?
Many GPs set their own fee for their service, which means there will be a gap between the amount Medicare reimburses and the amount you fork out.
While plenty of good doctors will bulk-bill, it’s more likely doctors who do so will have to move patients through quickly. This is because the current Medicare fee hasn’t kept pace with increases in costs of delivering services.
If you’re willing to pay a private fee, odds are you will get a more in-depth consultation.
“You’ve got to keep in mind that often it takes a little time for a good doctor to sort out your health needs.”
What to watch out for
- A GP that doesn’t seem to be listening to you
- Feeling rushed during your consultation
- Lengthy waiting times on a regular basis
- A doctor who seems to jump to a referral or prescription too readily
- A doctor who always has all the answers all the time and never admits they’re unsure or don’t know something
One point that many experts agree on is that seeing the same GP over time can have substantial benefits. When patients see multiple medical practitioners without consistency, it’s easy for test results, prescriptions and pathology to be duplicated and information to fall through the cracks. When you see your GP on a regular basis, and it’s your GP, there’s a very good chance you’re living longer compared to patients who are choosing to see multiple medical doctors with their health concerns.