How Should You Begin Looking for a New Doctor?
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Published by TOP4 Team
Building a relationship with an experienced and effective doctor or general practitioner is a must. While people can pay a visit to their doctors for basic and routine checkups as well as minor treatments, these doctors are also the professionals they must turn to when potentially life-threatening health conditions and situations arise. There's always the possibility of going through tough life challenges and difficult moments with your doctor, so you'll want one that you can fully trust and rely on to help you and your family achieve or return to the best degree of health.
However, there are instances when you will need to begin seeing a new doctor. Perhaps you'll be moving to another location and it will no longer be practical to continue seeing the same doctor's office. Maybe the practitioner you are currently seeing is about to retire from the practice. Or perhaps, you find that the last doctor you've been approaching isn't an entirely good fit for your needs or preferences in some way.
If your goal is to find a new doctor with whom you can develop a positive professional relationship, here are some key guidelines that can help you get started on your search.
1. Ask your current or previous doctor for referrals. It goes without saying that a doctor would be the best individual to seek advice from when it comes to looking for a new one. Your previous doctor will already know your history and unique conditions and will be able to make an informed referral to another general practitioner or specialist.
As a rule of thumb, it's never safe to go straight to a specialist of your own choosing based simply on the condition that you believe you have. It is a general practitioner's task to assess and examine your condition before advising you to see a specialist who can take the task of giving advice and performing treatments to the next level, for your benefit. Aside from being a bad practice, you should also know that unreferred consultations with specialists will not be eligible for specialist Medicare rebates.
2. Seek help from local experts and your own networks. If you don't have a former doctor or if they are unavailable, you can visit health professionals in your new location; if you're a new mother, for example, you can speak to staff at Maternal and Child Health Centres. Local chemists can also help. If it's possible, you can ask your relatives and close friends, too; they won't have professional knowledge about your particular case or about the required qualities of a certified doctor, but they can help by sharing information about doctors they have visited before and their manners of running their practice and dealing with patients. These can help you get an idea.
3. Contact professional associations. You also have the option of getting in touch with the local branch of the Australian Medical Association, or the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. They can provide a list of the doctors currently practising in your area.
4. Pay a visit. Once you have a shortlist of doctors you mean to consider, make time to visit each practice so you can perform a general observation. See for yourself if the practice is easily accessible through various modes of transport, and if there are sufficient parking spaces available. Make a note of the condition of the outdoor garden, if there's one, as well as of the waiting room inside. Note the day and time of your visit and whether there is a long line of patients waiting to be accommodated. See if the receptionist provides a Practice Information Sheet or Practice Newsletter (these provide general information like appointments, fees, home visits, repeat prescriptions, and such). And try to find out if the doctors possess extra qualifications that you might benefit from in the future.
5. Make an appointment. When you've chosen your most preferred options, ring them up and schedule an appointment. Inform them that you are a new patient in need of a baseline checkup, and observe how your call was received and how well the receptionist communicated with you. Was the receptionist welcoming or abrupt? Were you provided information that would be helpful to a new client?
6. Assess your first visit with the doctor. During your first encounter, make note of how the whole visit turns out. Did the practice keep you waiting (and how long), and were you offered any explanations or apologies for the delay? Did the doctor welcome you, introduce himself, share helpful information, or take time to ask your details and the circumstances that brought you to make an appointment? Did you feel hurried during the entire visit? How does the doctor handle the time and your concerns, and what do you think of the doctor as a person?
These guidelines can help you pinpoint the best doctor to build an important relationship with. Remember, your choice of doctor to entrust your health needs to can be a matter of life and death, so it's necessary to go through a careful selection process to ensure that your life will be in good hands should the need for medical treatments and procedures arise.