What can I expect from my GP?
The GP is trained to deal with a huge range of problems a child or adult might have. The GP is skilled in diagnosis and treatment, especially at an early stage of a condition. The GP will know when and where to refer you if you require further investigations or treatment.
The General Practitioner can advise on the needs of a baby with fever, an old person with memory loss, as well as medical and psychological problems.
The GP is trained to listen and observe and is able to pick up symptoms that you may have missed, & then work with you to improve matters.
You can expect your GP to be:
- Courteous – even friendly!
- Proactive & have a Preventative approach
- Wishing too Seek a Shared Understanding of the problem
- Up to Date with a broad range of medical issues
- Independent – from pharmaceutical companies or financial interests
What are the different types of GP?
There are different types of GP in the sense that there are different types Dermatologist, different types of Surgeons and different types of Urologists.
For example, A Dermatologist may sub-specialise in mohs micrographic surgery, cosmetic dermatology or children’s vascular lesions (types of birthmark). A Gynaecologist may sub-specialise in Endometriosis, vulval disorders or Ovarian Cancer.
Similarly, A GP has specialised as a Family Physician and is able & willing to handle the majority of issues that come their way but be happy to refer to others for specific help.
A GP can therefore recognise, advise, treat or refer patients with any medical or emotional condition. A patient could present with Asthma or Acne, bowel problems or backache, Diabetes or depression, IBS, High Blood Pressure or need advice about weight loss, and expect to be helped by a highly competent, knowledgeable and skilled professional.
The GP may, like other specialists, also take an interest in a variety of Subspecialities of General Practice – including musculoskeletal medicine, Skin Cancer, & travel medicine. Some Skin cancer doctors focus more on skin cancer medicine whereas other skin cancer doctors focus more on skin cancer surgery … both will provide a good service but the skin cancer medical doctor is less likely themselves to perform flaps on the face than the skin cancer doctor who has specialised in flaps and grafts.
A specialist GP is strictly speaking (medicare definition) a GP who has been accredited at a higher level of training than a non-specialist GP. Most commonly this is inferred by the initials FRACGP. GP Training lasts at least 9-10 years and prepares your doctor to cater for health issues in men, women, pregnancy & kids.
A Specialist GP in Australia is considered by most people to be a GP who has developed expertise in certain areas. Different countries have different titles for this type of GP. Overseas, this type of GP is often referred to as a GPwSI (GP with Special Interest) – not a very satisfactory term in the sense that the term “interest” somehow doesn’t seem somehow to encompass the expertise that a GP with special interest has developed through formal qualifications, professional development & experience. In this sense, a Specialist GP is working at the level of a specialist in that field but is happy to refer for a second opinion, specific investigations, procedures or treatment when appropriate. This type of medical practice does often require a longer appointment than a standard GP consultation – not least to also have time to look at other areas that a specialist only that field would not look at.
Bulk Billing .v. Private Billing General Practice
A 100% bulk billed practice will mean that every patient is billed directly through medicare with no out-of-pocket cost. A private practice will incur an out-of-pocket cost which is typically around $45. Private practices are often no more profitable than bulk-billing practices. Why is this?
- Patients expect more time with their doctor in a private practice. Appointments are generally longer.
- Patient results coming into a private practice are often followed up over the phone which is unbilled time.
- Patients in a private practice will often mention several problems at the same consultation. The business model of a bulk billing practice would suggest that the doctor is more likely to ask the patient to make a separate appointment for a different problem.
- Private patients expect to come for a follow-up appointment only when they see it as necessary. The doctor in a private practice will try to align the follow-up with the patient’s expectations. This would suggest a lower follow-up rate in a private practice.
- Bulk Billing Practices will often do a lot more “care plans” or “management plans” than private practices.
Is quality of care better in a private general practice better than a bulk-billing practice? This cannot and should not be stated. However, the bulk billing business model strongly points towards shorter consultations. There is a lot of evidence from The UK that longer GP consultations does increase quality and improve patient satisfaction.
Which GP should I see?
You can source doctors with specific postgraduate specialist training qualifications from the respective college websites. For example, Skin Cancer College Australia provides a searchable list of doctors who hold the College’s postgraduate skin cancer qualifications. You can go from word of mouth, or look at the practice or doctor’s online profiles. Australian registered Doctors are not allowed to make false promises and must always put their patient’s interests first.
The internet is now full of ratings of doctors – businesses listed on google for example. Like Tripadvisor, it’s usually best to look at the freetext description in the ratings for the reviews most likely to be trustworthy. Extremely positive reviews might be written by a friend of the practice owner, and highly negative reviews might be from a competitor. Most of us are savvy to this which is why reviews need to be read with a questioning head on.
Don’t worry too much because a doctor who is not exactly the right doctor to see will know who is and be happy to refer you or recommend a colleague.
Getting your results
You will agreed with your doctor the best way to get results at the appointment. You are welcome to a print off of your test results.
Lab Tests Online was probably the forerunner in helping people understand their pathology test results. They have an app for both Android and IOS. The apps are officially recommended apps by the UK NHS, and are Australia-specific.