When it comes to looking after yourself, one of the most important relationships you will have is with your GP. Having an ongoing relationship with a general practitioner is important to your long-term wellbeing. This person is your first point of call when things aren’t going well, and you need to be able to trust them.
If you are looking for a new doctor, Healthpoint is a good place to start and you can search by location. Asking local friends and family for recommendations (or warnings!) can also be valuable. Keep in mind what you want in a doctor – do you want a family doctor who is good with children? Do you want a doctor that supports natural medicine alongside conventional? Are you more comfortable with a male or female doctor? Is it important to find a doctor that has experience with and an understanding of your background or culture?
You should feel comfortable talking openly about every aspect of your health and lifestyle, so you need a doctor you can trust and feel respected by. GPs are usually very busy, but despite this a good one won’t make you feel rushed in your appointment.
If you don’t feel like your doctor is listening to you and taking your concerns seriously, they may not be a good fit.
One of the most valuable parts of the GP-patient relationship is the ongoing care through different seasons of your life.
Finding a GP who takes your medical and personal history into account when they are treating you, and looks at you as a whole person, not a collection of disparate symptoms, is critical. For example, if you were to visit your doctor to discuss trouble sleeping, weight gain or loss, would they treat that one symptom or work with you to find the underlying cause?
It is also important that they treat mental health concerns as seriously as physical health issues.
The G in GP stands for general. It is important to remember that GPs know a little about a lot of stuff, and are skilled at diagnosis at the early stages of a condition. For more complicated or unusual issues, or those requiring specialist ongoing care, having a GP who understands the referral system and when to refer patients to the experts is important.
If they advocate for you and follow up with the specialist, even better.
When joining a GP practice, find out how they operate. Do they have late nights? Is it difficult to see the GP of your choice? If the clinic has a large number of doctors, you may find you can choose a different doctor for different members of your family.
A lot of your medical care will actually be undertaken by the nurses at the practice, and these ongoing relationships are also valuable.
Your medical record is kept with the GP you’re enrolled with, but any health professional involved in your care can look at it.
You are also entitled to view your own records, and when you apply for insurance the provider may want to see them. 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 as a pre-existing condition – make sure your vent about the kids, the spouse and the mortgage hasn’t been misconstrued.
As we come into summer, take these steps to keep your family safe.
If you want to talk to one of our advisers about getting the best health insurance cover, get in touch.
Here are a few reviews from some of our existing clients around New Zealand