What factors do you consider when selecting a doctor? In Australia as in other countries, payment is a hot topic of discussion. Today’s post comes to us from our GLOBALHealthPR Australia partner, VIVA! Communications.
In Australia, patients may soon begin to see higher bills each time they visit their local doctors as the government has chosen to freeze Medicare rebates for general practitioner (GP) services. This move is expected to generate approximately $1.3 billion in government savings that would otherwise have been directed to GPs by 2018.
In preparing to launch an extensive Medicare review after ruling out a Medicare co-payment, The Federal Health Minister, The Hon. Sussan Ley MP, was reported by The Sydney Morning Herald on April 22, 2015 to have said, “Basically, there’s wide agreement the Medicare system in its current form, is sluggish, bloated and at high risk of long-term chronic problems, and continuing to patch it up with band-aids won’t fix it.”
This brings about a larger question about how co-payments fit into the broader set of considerations that patients must address when selecting a provider.
GPs have warned the ongoing freeze on Medicare fees may attract an additional $8.43 co-payment for non-concession patients by 2018, which is all the more reason why Australians should be asking their GPs if their billing processes are changing.
Factors to consider when selecting a doctor:
If you’re on the hunt for a new general practitioner (GP), there are certain items you need to take into account, including gender, age, availability, qualifications and specialisation, other service provisions and of course, billing.
Associate Professor Helena Britt from The University of Sydney’s Family Medicine Research Centre was reported by The Age on June 16, 2015 to have said age and gender are important considerations in GP selection.
“Female GPs are more likely to conduct longer consultations and ask about psycho-social issues, and some male GPs avoid offering procedures such as pap smears for women altogether.”
Furthermore, older GPs are known to rely more on clinical experience and patient examinations, while younger GPs order more tests to verify their suspicions.
Importantly, you need to be able to establish a connection with your doctor and to be able to engage in open, honest dialogue.
Availability is also critical. On what basis does your GP work, and can you afford to wait? Large corporate clinics tend to operate after-hours and cater to walk-ins, but may involve longer waiting times. On the flip side, small, family-oriented GP practices are open during business hours and offer a more personalised service.
It’s also important to consider a GP’s area of specialisation in order to best meet your healthcare needs. For instance, does your GP specialise in women’s, men’s or sexual health, pediatrics, obstetrics, dermatology, travel medicine, addictions, complementary medicine, or other therapeutic areas?
Furthermore, what other services does your GP offer (e.g. pathology, diagnostic imaging) and are they conveniently located (i.e. in-house, next door, down the road)? In addition, does your GP practice house allied health professionals, such as physiotherapists, psychologists, dieticians and nutritionists?
Perhaps a locum doctor service (such as the Home Doctor Service and Australian Locum Medical Service) is more suited to your healthcare needs? These bulk-billed services operate from 4pm to 8am, seven days a week, with an average waiting time of up to three hours, and cater for sickness that does not warrant hospital attention.
Recently, Ley has vocalized that her views on GP services in general remain the same. She shared her opinions with The Sydney Morning Herald on August 4, 2015, “We are committed to finding better ways to care for people with chronic and complex conditions and ensure they receive the right care, in the right place, at the right time.” Ley agrees with the public that the Medicare system is not supportive enough of chronic and complex health conditions.
So remember to think twice when selecting your GP.
Interested in more details regarding the Australian government’s freeze on indexation of Medicare rebates to GPs? Head over the VIVA! blog for a more in-depth look.