If you have a persistent cough, an itchy rash that won’t go away, or a constant back pain, who do you see about it? Your family doctor is usually the first person you call for a general medical condition, but how else could you benefit from having a long-term doctor for your family? Here we look at the role of the family doctor, why you should have one, and how to find a good one.
What’s a family doctor?
A family doctor is a general practitioner (GP) who takes care of your family’s healthcare needs. A GP can look after each family member throughout their changing life stages. Usually your family doctor will get to know you and your family, building a long-term relationship and tracking your health histories.
Your family doctor can help with things like specialist referrals, diagnosing and treating chronic and acute conditions, regular health screenings, and advice on making lifestyle adjustments. Some GPs provide guidance on mental, emotional, and other non-physical health concerns. Your GP is someone you can trust and feel comfortable with, as he or she will have a very personal understanding of your family’s healthcare.
While a lot of families share the one family doctor, some GP specialise in adolescent healthcare, seniors, or women’s health, so there might come a time when your children should see someone else. GP’s can specialise in travel medicine, weight less, mental health, dermatology, or some other specialty, so you might see a GP for different issues.
Why do you need a reliable and suitable family doctor?
Having a long-term family doctor could save you money and improve your family’s quality of life.
- First point of contact – For general health issues like immunisation, flu symptoms, back pain, rashes, and other non-life-threatening healthcare, your family doctor is the first point of health contact and someone who can help with a vast range of health concerns.
- Preventative and lifestyle healthcare – Your family GP can give you advice on preventative measures, like making lifestyle changes for better health outcomes. This could end up helping you save on unnecessary health costs.
- Family health history – A good family doctor has an in-depth understanding of not just your personal but also your family health history, including shared-lifestyle factors and inheritable conditions. This gives them a sound basis for assessing potential health risks.
- Individualised treatment plans – Your GP is able to create personal treatment plans to provide individualised care for each member of your family.
- Chronic and acute conditions – You can ask your family doctor about chronic conditions like allergies, asthma, diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease. He or she can treat you for everything from ear and nose to bone and joint problems.
- Life stages – A family doctor is qualified to help you with changing healthcare needs as you move from one life stage to the next. Whether it’s your newborn baby or an elderly family family, your family doctor is qualified to look after each family member. For family planning, pregnancy, and birth, your family doctor can give you general advice and refer you to a gynaecologist or obstetrician.
Tips on finding and choosing the best doctor for your family
So how do you find and choose a good doctor for your family?
- Referrals – Talk to your friends and family and ask them for recommendations. You can also ask any health professionals you might know, like a nurse or physiotherapist, for a referral.
- Research – Do local-area research online. Consider whether you need a doctor who speak a specific language. Review the clinic and check whether it’ll be easy to always get an appointment with the same doctor. In larger clinics or corporate medical clinics, you might be seeing different doctors rather than the same doctor all the time.
- Review your health insurer – Check your health insurer’s website for lists of preferred providers. Some insurers provide a list of their recommended or approved GPs as well as extras providers like dentists and optometrists.
- Call and check website – Call their clinic to find out more. Ask their staff whether the GP is taking on new patients. Find out their office hours, average wait time for appointments, and other relevant details. If you need a doctor who does bulk-billing, check they offer it.
- See the doctor – Schedule an appointment. Consider whether the office is easy to get to, the friendliness of the staff, and how the appointment went. Did the doctor answer your questions, show interest in your concerns, and explain things well? Do they appear capable of looking after you and your family? If it’s a GP for your child, were they good at communicating with children? Consider other factors, like generosity with time, listening skills, over-prescription of medication, and curiosity in your health history.
Your family GP can play a significant role in supporting you family’s ongoing good health. With his/her detailed understanding of your individual and family health history, your doctor’s in the best position to offer the personalised care you need. By finding a dedicated, qualified doctor you can trust, you’ll be taking a big step in the right direction for you and your family’s healthcare.
Having a trusted family doctor is important, but so is ensuring you have the right private health insurance. Itsmyhealth is committed to helping Australians find the right health insurance coverage and keeping it as simple as possible. Check out our easy-to-use tool now to find the right health cover for your family.