Getting the Best From Your GP Visit
Your general practitioner's (GP's) role is to help you look after your health needs, and those of families and others in the community. Your GP identifies the nature of your health problem from a broad range of possibilities, and then provides appropriate care.
Anything you discuss with your GP is subject to strict privacy rules. However, you need to know that whatever is said and noted by your GP could be requested by a court or, subject to your permission, released to an insurance company.
How to prepare for your visit
It is frustrating to visit your GP, only to get home and realise you have forgotten something your GP said.
- Before your visit, write down the questions you wish to ask.
- Bring a list of medications you take now, including their doses and frequency. Also remember to tell your GP whether you take complementary medications, medications from other doctors or dentists, or recreational drugs.
- Remember to tell your GP about medications that may have given you an allergic or adverse reaction.
- Take notes, or ask your GP to write down things you might forget or don’t understand, particularly about medications.
- Take a friend or a family member with you.
Communication is the key to a good consultation. Your GP needs basic information to work out your health issues. Be honest with them. Discuss openly any fears, worries or concerns you may have about your illness or the treatment your GP suggests.
Remember to tell your GP if you have particular symptoms such as pain or nausea, if you are not sleeping, if you have lost weight, if you are tired, or anything else not normal for you. Tell your GP when these symptoms began, how they developed, or if anything makes the symptoms better or worse.
Having a regular GP
The benefit of a regular GP is that they get to know your medical history. They build up an understanding of your health needs, current problems and whether a treatment is right for you.
At times you may want to seek a second opinion. This may help you understand your problem and which health choices are right for you. There may also be times when you are unhappy with the service from your GP. Talk to your GP or the practice staff about it.
To get the best care and attention from your GP, it is important to make an appointment for the appropriate length of time. It is recommended that you:
- make a short appointment for repeat prescriptions
- make a standard appointment for coughs, colds or flu, injections, blood pressure checks, nausea, abdominal pain, sporting injuries, and so on
- make a longer appointment if it is your first visit to the GP, or if you would like a full check-up, travel medicine advice, counselling, or if you have more than one issue.
Remember to make a separate appointment for each family member who needs to be seen.
Although you don’t need to disclose to the receptionist your reasons for making an appointment with your GP, you might like to ask them for advice on an appropriate appointment length.
Also, fees may vary with the length of consultation. Remember to ask.
Computers in practices
Computers can be used by your doctor in a number of ways, such as:
- an aid to prescribing your medication and the appropriate dose
- to record your medical history
- to provide reminders for follow-up visits for immunisation, cervical screening (pap smear), and so on
- to receive pathology and other results quickly and securely
- to access the Internet and email services
- to interact with My Health Record (a national electronic health record independent of your doctor’s own records).
- To help you remember what medications you are taking and to assist your GP when re-prescribing, keep the box the medication came in.
- On your first visit to a GP, spend some time making notes about your personal health history, and take them with you.
- If you are kept waiting, it may be because your GP needs to spend time with another patient who is in a crisis situation. On another occasion you may need the extra time.
- If you need a reminder about the next injection, blood test, and so on, ask the GP or reception staff to add you to their recall list.
- You can ask for copies of your test results and specialist letters.
- Many written resources that GPs provide to their patients are available in larger fonts and in multiple languages. Just ask.
Reproduced with permission from Sydney North Primary Health Network; amendments made by Mary Potter (health consumer).
Multicultural Health Communication Service
This NSW Health website provides multi-lingual resources for patients.
My Health Record
This Australian Digital Health Agency web resource explains the national electronic medical record.