Image via Offspring/Channel 10.
Australia spent $16 billion on GP-related health care in 2012-13. That’s about $690 for each person. Given that our public health system means each of us is paying for health care through our taxes, what should we expect from our doctors?
Generally, Australians expect ready access to a general practitioner when they’re ill, and they want a GP who will listen carefully to what they say. But there are many other services you should expect.
These include: dealing with ongoing problems; anticipating and preventing diseases you’re at risk of developing; promoting good health generally and providing appropriate health education to this end; helping you get the most out of all health-care professions when you’re ill; doing house calls when necessary; being compassionate and knowledgeable about the process of death and dying; and generally being your health advocate.
One measure of a good GP is when she takes two minutes to diagnose your sore throat and then says, “Good, we now have ten minutes of the consultation left to examine you for skin cancers, review your asthma and answer any questions you have about your health.”
This preventive medicine approach aims to stop or detect the earliest evidence of disease and deal with it. At the very least, your GP should ensure that you know your blood group, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and your family’s history of important disorders, such as heart attacks, diabetes, aortic aneurysm, glaucoma and certain types of cancers. Being aware of these risks means you’re likely to detect abnormalities earlier and get them treated.
Your GP should also teach you how to get the best from the health system. This includes knowing when you shouldn’t bother seeing a doctor. You should probably avoid your local GP when you have a cold, for instance, but not put off a consultation for new, severe symptoms until Friday evening. (Post continues after gallery.)
The former will just help spread the virus causing the cold throughout your doctor’s waiting room. The latter will result in referral to a hospital emergency department since the necessary community-based investigative facilities will be closed.
At some stage, you’re going to be too ill or too infectious to get to your local doctor’s surgery. You should expect that your GP will make a house call when that happens.