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Health: The importance of your relationship with your GP

Having a GP (general practitioner) you have a good relationship with is a vital part of your healthcare plan. While having health insurance in place is important, if you become unwell your GP will be your first point of call – so you need someone who understands your healthcare history and that you believe will make good decisions regarding your care.

The relationship you develop with your doctor should be based on trust, clear communication, honesty and respect. For you to get the best possible healthcare, you and your doctor need to work together.

How to find a GP

It is free to enrol with a GP in New Zealand, but you may have to pay for appointments. Doctors’ practices and medical centres are privately owned and set their own fees, but the cost of a visit will be lower if you’re enrolled with the GP, as the government subsidises the fee.

To find a GP you can look at your local district health board website, or the Medical Council of New Zealand to find one near you, but you may prefer to ask around for a recommendation. Many clinics have a number of different GPs working there, so if you don’t connect with one you have the option of trying another. A good tip is to tell the nurses at the clinic what you are looking for in a GP, as they have a good grasp of strengths of each.

Once you have found a GP you like, you may find that they are hard to get an appointment with. If you are able to book in advance and are flexible with times this will increase your chances of seeing the same doctor, but for urgent appointments it may be more difficult.

What to look for in a GP

You should feel like your doctor listens to you, explains things clearly and respectfully, and follows through on referrals and relaying test results.

To have an effective relationship with your GP you have to be absolutely open and honest with them – if you don’t feel comfortable with someone it is a good idea to try someone else.

If you have any ongoing health concerns or pre-existing conditions it is a good idea to ask your GP how much experience they have had with that condition and what their preferred treatments are. GPs are people too, and there can be conflicting opinions on some treatments and conditions, so you need to find a GP whose values align with yours.

GPs are generalists, so a good GP should be relatively quick to refer you to a specialist for anything out of the ordinary. Having a GP you like and trust means you can probably trust their recommendations of specialists as well, which can take some of the stress out of the next stage of the journey.

How to get the most out of your GP appointments

Unfortunately, GPs are stretched, so you need to get straight to the point – this isn’t the place to have a chat about the weather or the match last night! Sometimes you may have a few things to cover, in which case mention it when you make the booking as you may need to book back to back appointments.

You need to be honest about what you came for and not expect the doctor to read between the lines, or mention the real reason you came as you head out the door. No matter how awkward or embarrassing your situation may seem, they really have seen it all before. You also need to be honest about any medications, how much you drink or any recreational drugs – you can’t expect quality treatment if your doctor doesn’t know the full story.

Your medical records

Your medical record is kept with the GP you’re enrolled with, but any health professional involved in your care can look at it.

Did you know you can as well? When you apply for insurance the provider may want to look at your records. While you should always be open with your GP, you may not be aware of what they are writing down and how much emphasis they are putting on what you have said. You may find it worth checking, and if you feel you have been misrepresented you can ask if they will amend it. This can be particularly relevant with regards to stress being seen as a pre-existing condition – make sure your vent about the kids, the spouse and the mortgage hasn’t been misconstrued.

If you want to know more about health insurance and why we think you need it, even in New Zealand, read our blog here. We’ve also touched on our thoughts on getting health cover for children here.

If you want to talk to one of our advisers about getting the best health insurance cover, call us.

How to find a GP

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