Progress:

  • Get facts current
  • Compare options
  • Your feelings
  • Your decision
  • Quiz yourself
  • Your summary
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Get facts

Get facts

From routine illnesses to more complex health problems, a GP can help with a huge range of health issues at all stages of your life.

Having a trusting, long-term relationship with a general practitioner (GP) is the best way to ensure you receive regular, quality healthcare. It enables your GP to develop an understanding of your medical history and healthcare preferences over time.

Sometimes, you might decide to see a GP you’ve never seen before. This might be because it's more convenient (for example, closer to where you work), or because the cost is lower. You may also see a new GP because you want a second opinion or specialist expertise. 

Key points

1. The best time to find a trusted GP is before you really need them

Building a relationship with your GP over time can offer insight into complex health issues as well as providing you with trusted support in an emergency. If you are looking for a new long-term GP, book in a check-up and use it as an opportunity to see if their approach and expertise suits you. Your friends and family may also have recommendations. 

2. Your needs will change at different times in your life

There are times in your life when you will see a GP more often than usual. Pregnancy and birth, raising a family, caring for older parents and managing serious illness are all reasons why people seek out more consistent care from a regular GP who is familiar with their concerns, preferences and medical history.

3. General practitioners can have specialist expertise

GPs are doctors trained in general practice, but can also specialise in other areas. You may want to focus on a particular health goal (such as quitting smoking or losing weight), an acute illness or a long-term chronic health issue (such as mental health or asthma). In this situation, you might choose a GP with particular experience to help with your healthcare decisions.

4. Cost, availability and location matter

Trust, expertise and communication are not the only things to consider when choosing a GP. Other factors include healthcare costs and rebates, extended opening hours, after hours care, appointment waiting times and clinic location.  

5. Sharing care across several GPs is another option

A healthcare clinic will usually have many different GPs who can easily access your medical history and offer you flexibility and choice in appointments and expertise. This model can suit families or people who are managing multiple commitments and need to get appointments quickly and at particular times.

How to use this tool

This tool will not tell you what to decide. Instead, it will help you to reflect on what is important to you and prepare you to take your next steps. 

Use this tool to gather your thoughts, weigh up the benefits and risks, identify where you need more information and assess how you are feeling. It will take a little time to go through all the steps in the tool.

At the end of this guide, you will have a summary of your thinking in one place. You can then print this summary and use it to discuss the situation with family, friends and your GP.

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a GP.

Compare options

  Option 1: Go to different GPs as my needs change Option 2: Find a regular GP or clinic
What are some benefits?

Convenience
Finding an appointment quickly with a GP located close to your home or work will save you time and effort. 

Cost
If you’re flexible about which GP you see, you can search for a practice that bulk-bills (this is when the GP accepts the Medicare benefit and you don’t need to pay) or doesn’t cost much. Some clinics may even offer an annual membership fee and then low-cost or bulk-billed consultations throughout the year.

Continuity of care
Having a GP that you see regularly enables that GP to develop an understanding of your health needs so they can help you to decide on the right treatment.

Trust
As you get to know your GP, you will feel more comfortable to talk about personal issues that could be having an impact on your health. 
What are some risks?

Fragmented medical history
After you go to hospital, get medical tests or scans, or see a specialist, a report will be sent to the GP that you have nominated. If this is a different GP every time, you will need to collect your medical history from many different places.

Unnecessary treatment, tests or referrals
You may find during a shorter consultation that you don’t have time to explain all of your medical history. Without access to your broader medical history, a GP may order tests, treatment or specialist referrals that are not needed.

Availability
Many GPs who establish long-term professional relationships with their patients are very popular. This means you may need to wait for an appointment, especially as a new patient. 

Limited opinions
Every GP has some limitations to their experience and won’t have in-depth expertise across all areas of health. Most GPs are happy to offer a referral to a specialist for a second opinion or review.
What are the key steps?

Search
When you are looking for a GP, you may want to know where they are located and their area of specialisation. Directories and searchable lists, such as the Better Health Channel ‘Find a Health Service’ , are the most convenient way to scan and compare options. Follow up with a phone call to the practice to find out about availability, cost and experience. 

Decide
The decision may be simple, or you may want some time to think through a few options. You will need to make an assessment not just about cost and convenience but also about the style of service.

Coordinate
If you are seeing different GPs, you will need to take responsibility for managing your health records. Make sure you ask for copies of tests and reports so you can keep all your records in one place and provide any relevant background to each new GP.

 

Research
Ask for recommendations from people you trust, especially if they are in a similar situation for example, have a young family. Ask about approach, quality of service and availability. 

Check
After you have a shortlist, ring each practice or clinic to find out how they manage appointments and enquiries. If you think you have found a preferred option, book a check up as a new patient with the GP. 

Decide
Weigh up your choices and assess the options against your priorities. It is always possible to make another change in the future, but with the right preparation and research you will probably find a GP you or your family can stay with for many years.

Your feelings

Your personal preferences are an important part of your decision-making process. Read the statements below and think about what matters most to you. Slide the bar left or right to record how you are feeling about the two options.

  • Option 1: Go to different GPs as my needs change
  • Option 2: Find a regular GP or clinic
  • Option 1

    I am usually happy to trust a GP I don’t know.
  • Option 2

    I want to build trust with a GP over time.
The next control is a slider. You can use the up or right keys to increment its value, or the down or left keys to decrement its value. The values range from 1 to 7.
  • Option 1

    I don’t mind who I see, I just want to get an appointment quickly.
  • Option 2

    I will wait for an appointment to see my usual GP.
The next control is a slider. You can use the up or right keys to increment its value, or the down or left keys to decrement its value. The values range from 1 to 7.
  • Option 1

    I will change GPs depending on what I need at different times.
  • Option 2

    I feel like I am in a period of my life where I need a GP who knows my background and concerns.
The next control is a slider. You can use the up or right keys to increment its value, or the down or left keys to decrement its value. The values range from 1 to 7.
  • Option 1

    I don’t really see a GP very often so I usually just choose a good value option that is nearby.
  • Option 2

    I see a GP regularly and want to be able go back to the same clinic each time.
The next control is a slider. You can use the up or right keys to increment its value, or the down or left keys to decrement its value. The values range from 1 to 7.

Your decision

Now that you have thought about the key issues and your preferences, think about whether you want a regular GP.

Move the scale below to show which way you are leaning right now.

Which way you're leaning

  • Option 1

    Go to different GPs as my needs change. You may be at a stage of life where you don’t need a regular GP. You may be happy to choose a GP based on who is available or their location, even if you have never seen them before. You may also choose to see a new doctor because you want a second opinion or specialist expertise.
  • Option 2

    Find a regular GP or clinic. Having a GP that you see regularly means your GP will develop an understanding of your medical history and healthcare preferences. Another option is going to a medical clinic where you can see a group of GPs who all have access to your health information.
The next control is a slider. You can use the up or right keys to increment its value, or the down or left keys to decrement its value. The values range from 1 to 7.

Quiz yourself

The questions below will help you think through what is important to you and where you may need more information.

After answering these questions you will get a summary of your answers. You can print this out and take this with you to discuss with family or friends, as well as your healthcare professional.

Check the facts

Question 1: Which of the following would be the most important reason for you to find a regular GP?
Question 2: Which of the following would be the most important reason for you to change GPs?
Question 3: What is your biggest concern if you see many different GPs?

Decide what's next

Question 1: Do you understand the options available to you?
Question 2: Are you clear about which benefits and side affects matter most to you?
Question 3: Do you have enough support and advice from others to make a choice?

Certainty

The next control is a slider. You can use the up or right keys to increment its value, or the down or left keys to decrement its value. The values range from 1 to 7.
Question 2: Check what you need to do before you make this decision.

Your summary

Your decision

Next Steps

Which way you're leaning

  • Option 1

    Go to different GPs as my needs change. You may be at a stage of life where you don’t need a regular GP. You may be happy to choose a GP based on who is available or their location, even if you have never seen them before. You may also choose to see a new doctor because you want a second opinion or specialist expertise.
  • Option 2

    Find a regular GP or clinic. Having a GP that you see regularly means your GP will develop an understanding of your medical history and healthcare preferences. Another option is going to a medical clinic where you can see a group of GPs who all have access to your health information.
The next control is a slider. You can use the up or right keys to increment its value, or the down or left keys to decrement its value. The values range from 1 to 7.

How sure you are

The next control is a slider. You can use the up or right keys to increment its value, or the down or left keys to decrement its value. The values range from 1 to 7.

Your comments

Your knowledge of the facts

Key concepts you understand
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Key concepts that may need review
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What matters to you

Your personal preferences are an important part of your decision-making process. Read the statements below and think about what matters most to you. Slide the bar left or right to record how you are feeling about the two options.

  • Option 1: Go to different GPs as my needs change
  • Option 2: Find a regular GP or clinic

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The next control is a slider. You can use the up or right keys to increment its value, or the down or left keys to decrement its value. The values range from 1 to 7.
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The next control is a slider. You can use the up or right keys to increment its value, or the down or left keys to decrement its value. The values range from 1 to 7.
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The next control is a slider. You can use the up or right keys to increment its value, or the down or left keys to decrement its value. The values range from 1 to 7.
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The next control is a slider. You can use the up or right keys to increment its value, or the down or left keys to decrement its value. The values range from 1 to 7.