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What to look for when choosing a GP

18 August, 2016
DOCTOR-THUMB

Finding a reputable GP who you feel comfortable with is an important part of looking after your health, and keeping track of any chronic conditions you might have. In addition to having the right technical skills, your GP is a trusted advisor who you should be able to communicate complex or sensitive information to in a clear way. As such, your GP should be someone you feel you can communicate with and trust to guide you on health related issues. When looking for a new GP, these are the main things you should keep in mind. 

The role of the GP 

A good GP is a generalist doctor who can give you advice on many health related issues and chronic conditions, order the right tests to check for any illnesses or conditions, and refer you to the right specialists if necessary. Great GPs can help you avoid unnecessary hospital visits, and work with you to maintain good health. 

Finding a GP 

To get started, ask family, friends, neighbours, and other local medical professionals for their recommendations. Local pharmacists or even the local council might be able to help you with their recommendations. The internet is another excellent source when searching for prospective GPs, along with professional organisations such as the Australian Medical Association and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.

Things to consider 

Once you have a shortlist of prospective GPs, you can start narrowing down your list by finding out as much as you can about each GP and their practice. In some cases you might be able to find the information online, or simply by calling them up. In other cases you might have to visit the clinic in person to obtain the required information. There are several things you’ll need to consider when choosing a GP. 

Location

Location is an important factor for most people. If you need to see your GP frequently, it’s important to ensure that your GP is close by and their clinic is easily accessible by car or public transport. You could consider proximity to your workplace, rather than your home, if you see your GP frequently during workdays.

Hours 

A GP with a clinic that operates during standard working hours might be fine for most people, but if you have a chronic condition that sometimes requires after-hours attention, you’ll probably need to find a clinic that offers extended hours access. Some medical centres do offer longer opening hours, but there is no guarantee that you will get to see the same GP each visit. As such, consider your GP’s opening hours if this is a critical issue, and look for medical clinics nearby that offer extended hours.

Home visits 

You might have a condition that requires home visits, so check with your shortlist of GP’s to see if any offer this type of care. There are some clinics that offer 24-hour home visits, but like emergency medical clinics you may not be able to see the same doctor every time. 

Female or male

It’s important to be comfortable with your GP. If you have a gender preference for your GP, make sure you factor this into your consideration. Think about the kind of examinations and questions you might ask of your GP, so you can make sure the doctor you choose is one who you’ll feel completely comfortable with. 

Languages

If you are much more comfortable and fluent in a language other than English, make an effort to find a GP who is fluent in your preferred language. 

Type of practice 

Consider the type of medical clinic you would like to visit. Smaller clinics have a handful of GPs working in the same premises, while larger clinics such as corporate medical centres tend to have numerous GPs and offer additional services. These services are all located at the same site and can include pathology, radiology, a pharmacy, and other complementary services.shutterstock_390902179

 

Larger clinics offer the convenience of having a suite of services all located under the same roof. Additionally, these larger corporate medical centres tend to address specific conditions or treatment plans, but they often see fewer long-term patient-GP relationships like those you’ll find in small clinics. In the end, you might decide to use both clinics, depending on whether you have any special treatment needs.

Qualifications

Many doctors will have their profile available online, so you can easily check their qualifications, along with a membership to the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. They might also have a diploma in another specialisation, such as obstetrics.

Premises

During your appointment you will have a chance to review the clinic’s premises. A clean, pleasant, well-lit, and well-maintained space indicates that the clinic and its doctors are dedicated to providing patients with a good service.

Billing

Currently, 55% of doctor’s bulk bill 80% or more of their patients. If you’re keen to avoid out-of-pocket costs, check that the GP practises bulk billing. However, if you’re happy with a particular GP that charges privately and have no problems paying out-of-pocket, there’s no reason why you should not opt for that GP.

Things to look out for at your first appointment 

Your first appointment will help you identify whether or not you are likely to be comfortable with your new GP. Things to look out for include: 

  • Communication – Is your GP good at listening to you? Do they take time to carefully clarify and absorb what you’re saying? Are they good at communicating ideas and thoughts to you?
  • Time – Is the GP giving you what you believe is a reasonable amount of time? Are they hurried, or do you feel rushed? If the GP seems to be impatient during your physical examinations and in a hurry to finish the appointment, it’s an obvious red flag that this might not be the right GP for you.
  • Medication – If you get an opportunity to discuss medication, consider whether the GP appears to be eager to prescribe certain medications. It is believed that some doctors may receive incentives from pharmaceutical companies; if you have reason to believe that your condition does not require medication, be alert to the possibility of an over-prescribing GP.

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Disclaimer

All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified medical practitioner. CBHS endeavours to provide independent and complete information, and content may include information regarding services, products and procedures not covered by CBHS Health Cover policies. For full terms, click here.

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