If you've never made an appointment to see someone about your health, it can be a little confusing to know who you should be talking to, or where you can find them. To help you make sense of it all, here are a few tips on making sense of the world of medicine and health professionals.
People who provide health services
Doctors (known as General Practitioners or GPs) are a good starting point for medical advice. They deal with most types of health issues. If they can't offer you appropriate treatment, they can give you a letter (called a referral) you can take to a specialist health care professional who can help you.
Health care professionals
For some specific health issues you don’t need to go to a GP for a referral. You can make an appointment directly with some specific health care professionals. These types of health care professionals include counsellors, physios and dentists, and are generally based in consulting rooms, medical centres and hospitals.
You can also consider complementary therapies such as Chinese herbal medicine, homeopathy, osteopathy, or naturopathy for some types of health issues.
Choosing a doctor or health care professional
If you’re not sure who you need to see for your health issue, here are some tips for choosing the right one:
- Ask a friend, relative, teacher or counsellor to recommend one
- Ask at a community health centre
- Search the Better Health Channel's services directory
What do I ask when I want to make an appointment?
Once you’ve found some good local doctors or health professionals you should give them a call to make sure they’re suitable and to find out the costs of seeing them.
Here's a list of practical things to consider when you talk to them:
- Where is the service located?
- Can you just make an appointment or do you need a referral from another doctor? (With some health professionals, such as specialists, you need your doctor to write you a referral before you can see them.)
- How much do the services cost?
- What costs are covered by Medicare?
- If you arrive on time for your appointment will you see the doctor or specialist straight away, will you have to wait?
- Does the service meet your special needs (like access issues if you have a disability)?
- Is there a cancellation fee if you miss an appointment?
- Do you prefer getting health advice and treatment from a man or a woman?
- Will they understand your religious or cultural background?
What if I don’t think the doctor's diagnosis is right?
Sometimes you get an unexpected diagnosis from the doctor about your health. It’s important to know that you can always ask for more information or even get a second opinion from a different doctor on any diagnosis. Visit Health Direct for handy questions you can ask your health professional about your diagnosis.
If you are still unsure, you could do some research yourself, but when searching online, stick with trusted government and professional websites for health-related information. You should always verify the information you find on a website with a qualified health professional.
Visit the Better Health Channel for more information about getting second opinions.