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Finding the right doctor

 Quick Summary

Your doctor or general practitioner (GP) can help you with a broad range of health issues. It is important that you find a doctor that you feel comfortable with and can talk to about any concerns you have about your health, even things that may embarrass you. Your doctor is the ‘gateway’ to specialist services and is someone who can keep all of your health information securely in one place. This way, when you need to know something about your health, you can ask your doctor and they will be able to give you this information. Remember, doctors can’t know everything but when you have a health concern or question they are the best person to seek advice from as the first point of call.

You can choose to:

  

Location and opening hours

Think about when you are likely to see a doctor and where it will be most convenient for you to go to see a doctor. For example, will it be best for you if the clinic is close to your home, your work, or your child’s school?

Different clinics have different opening hours, so it is good to work out if you are more likely to see a doctor during usual business hours (8am- 6pm), or after hours (6pm – 8am on weekdays, Saturdays before 8am and after 12pm and Sunday and public holidays).

In some areas of Tasmania, you can use a Call the Doctor out of hours service. These doctors will visit you in your home. This option, if it is available, can be very beneficial to people with specific conditions or circumstances that make it difficult to get to a clinic or to wait to see a doctor in a busy environment with lots of people.

Personal recommendations

Your friends or family may also know of good doctors in or close to the area you live, work or study. Other doctors and medical professionals may be able to suggest someone when you have a specific health concern. Some doctors have particular medical interest areas and specialisations that may meet your needs. For example, the SHAID clinic in Lenah Valley, just outside Hobart, specialises in health care to adults with an intellectual and/or physical disability.

Paying for the doctor

If you are worried about how you will pay for your appointment, make sure when you contact a new clinic to ask if they provide bulk billing options or payment plans. Bulk billing is when the doctor only charges you the Medicare rate, so there is no additional cost to you. The Health Department calls additional costs ‘out of pocket fees’ or ‘gap charges.’ You can ask the clinic each time you book an appointment what the charges will be to make sure that you know if you will have any out of pocket costs.

Don’t let being unable to pay to see a doctor stop you when you have a health concern. Phone the clinic letting them know of your situation and ask if it is possible to be bulk billed or to be able to delay payment. You can also choose to visit a bulk billing doctor as a one-off to gain needed medical assistance.

Your relationship with your doctor

It is important that you feel you can talk to your doctor about anything. When choosing your doctor you need to consider a few things. Will you feel more comfortable with a female or male doctor? Would you like to see a doctor who is close to your age or older or younger? Would you prefer to see someone who speaks your language?

When you know the answers to these questions, you can ask to add this to your list of things you are looking for in a doctor.

When you have made decisions about what you are looking for in a doctor and their clinic or service you are ready to find your doctor. Make a list of your questions and contact or ask for someone from your network of support to help you to contact the clinic’s or doctor’s services, and ask the reception staff your questions.

Remember to also ask if they are taking new patients.

It is then time to make an appointment with a doctor who sounds like they’d suit you and to see how this goes.

If you think that the first doctor you meet is not right for you, and if you have other doctors available in the area to choose from, you can make your next appointment with a new doctor and keep looking until you find someone you are comfortable with.

Once you’ve found the doctor that is right for you, stick with them. A regular doctor will get to know you and your health needs really well. When a doctor has a longer-term understanding of your health they will be better able to diagnose your health concerns, work with you to decide what treatments are going to help you the best, and maintain an ongoing record of what’s happened to you over your lifetime to assist you in the future.

They can be a central point for information about your health, which you can access at any time, and they can advocate for your health needs when you require it.

To make sure you are looked after in the best way possible, you must have a good relationship with your doctor. You need to be able to talk to your doctor about anything, even things that may embarrass you. Feeling comfortable with your doctor will help you communicate better, and help the doctor work out what is happening with your health and what treatments are going to work best for you.

The better your doctor knows you, the better they are able to make decisions about your treatment, and who and where to refer you to when other health professionals are needed. They can also talk to other health professionals on your behalf if you have any problems communicating your needs to them.

GET STARTED

If your health concern is life threatening and you require urgent medical assistance call 000

Register for a Medicare card. To see if you are eligible to enrol visit the Medicare website. Or visit a Medicare office in your area. Or phone  1 3 2 0 1 1.

Enrol with Medicare.

Use the Australian Government Health Direct website to find a doctor or general practitioner (GP).

If you are unable to access a doctor you can Use Health Direct for health advice and information 7 days a week, 24 hours a day by video, online, or telephone.  To speak to a GP after hours call 1 8 0 0 0 2 2 2 2 2. This number is free from landlines and some mobile phones.

For people with speech or hearing impairment wanting to research doctors or contact emergency services, contact the National Relay Service. This Government service enables people to make and receive calls anytime. National Relay officers convert voice to text or text to voice. Sometimes they convert between Auslan and English.

Speak and Listen number – 1 3 0 0 5 5 5 7 2 7.

Teletypewriter (TTY) number – 1 3 3 6 7 7.

Short Message Service (SMS) Relay number – 0 4 2 3 6 7 7 7 6 7.

Use the action steps on this page to get started with finding the right doctor for you.

If you are a temporary visitor to Australia and do not have a Medicare card you can contact any general practitioner (GP) and ask to book an appointment. You will receive a bill after your appointment.

Medicare provides essential medical cover for some international visitors. This cover is for immediately necessary medical treatment. See the list of countries Australia has reciprocal health agreements with on the Services Australia website.

If you are a non-English speaker or need help communicating in English and you need to access a Doctor, the Translation and Interpreting Service (T.I.S.) is available. It is a free service provided you have a Medicare card. You can call the T.I.S. on 131 450, 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

ACTION STEPS

Here you can find a simple list of the best actions to take if you are interested in this topic:

1 . If you are experiencing a medical emergency contact 000

2 . If you are an Australian citizen over the age of 15 or a visitor to Australia check your eligibility and enrol with Medicare to gain a Medicare card

3 . Decide when you are most likely to see a doctor and where it will be most convenient for you to see a doctor.

4 . Decide if you feel more comfortable with a female or male doctor. Also If you would like to see a doctor who is close to your age, older or younger.

5 . Ask friends, family or others you trust if they know of good doctors in or close to the area you live, work or study.

6 . Find out the distance to travel to clinics and doctor's services near your home, work or place of study and what their opening hours are.

7 . Find out if the doctors have particular medical interest areas and specialisations that meet your needs.

8 . Ask if the clinic or doctor’s service bulk bill and/or how much your out of pocket expenses will be for an appointment.

9 . Make a list of your questions. Contact the clinic’s or doctor’s service, or ask someone from your network of support to help you make contact, and ask the reception staff your questions. Remember to ask also if they are taking new patients.

10 . Make your decision. It is time to make an appointment with a doctor that sounds like they’d suit you and to see how this goes.