Ask Lifehacker: How Do I Find A Good Doctor?

Dear Lifehacker, I've heard many people extol the virtue of finding a good doctor that you can hopefully stick with for years. For a long time I moved suburbs while renting, often making use of different bulk billing clinics. Now that I've bought into an area, I'm hoping to find a GP I can see for many years to come, and am fortunate enough now that I don't mind paying.

Ideally I'd have a friend in the area to ask for recommendations, but unfortunately I don't. So what resources exist that could help? It's the sort of search that search engines don't do very well yet. How can I go about finding a good local doctor? Cheers, Michael

Hi Michael,

There are certainly resources that will help you find doctors within a given area: the Yellow Pages is an obvious place to start, and there are specific sites such as Docfinder. However, those sites won't necessarily answer basic questions, such as how easy is it to get an appointment or even what the parking is like near the surgery. And nothing other than actually visiting will help you determine if the doctor's personality and approach matches your needs. (And we realise that if you live in a rural area, your choices may be rather restricted in the first place.)

The Australian medical profession has fairly strict regulations about whether doctors should endorse actual products. This appears to have had something of a flow-on effect: while the regulations covering doctors advertising themselves don't ban ads outright, they do discourage advertising that "compromises the dignity or decorum of the profession". As such, it's pretty rare to see anything more than a Yellow Pages listing a lot of the time.

One potentially helpful option to explore is posting a question on Twitter, naming your area and asking for doctor recommendations. As ever, I'm sure Lifehacker readers may be able to offer up other resources and suggestions in the comments.

The process of finding a doctor can be challenging, but it could be more complicated. In the UK, for example, you need to specifically register with a doctor, which can make changing if you find you're not compatible . While we'd welcome a move to full electronic health records to simplify that process, if you don't find one doctor meets your needs, trying a new provider here is no more complicated than getting an appointment.

Cheers Lifehacker


Comments

    word of mouth...

    I was in same situation - rent, many different clinics - and even once i was needed a JP or doctor reference that they know me a for a year - and i couldnt find anyone who vouche for me.

    So i made a plan to get one. I visited my nearest clinic and went for general health checkup. Remembered his name and visited him again for followups - in a month, visited 3 times and he started remembering me. He is now my official GP and got his mobile (but never called him outside his work hours) - he gave the reference and also knows my health history.

    In regards to good doctor, all GPs are same, doing basic diagnostics. So no good or bad, only question is whether they are friendly or not.

      All Australian-trained doctors should be pretty good - the selection, medical school and speciality programs weed out nearly all of the duds. But there's always exceptions to the rule, and these tend to manifest themselves in the less selective specialities (GP being one of them).

      Foreign-trained doctors should be okay, as they have to pass AMC exams, but it is slightly more of a gamble.

      That being said, the only really reliable way to be sure a doctor is good before you walk in the door to be good friends with ore related to doctors. I thank my lucky stars I have a parent and a number of friends in the medical profession.

    Definitely agree with word of mouth suggestion. Yellow Pages is a game of eenie meenie miney moe. And your doctor won't necessarily send you to the best one for you. I once got a referral to a specialist at a practice that no longer existed! Wasn't impressed.

    This becomes especially important with regards to psychologists/psychiatrists; consults with these tend to be pretty expensive, and it can often take a couple of sessions to figure out whether you "click" with your psych. It's obviously difficult given the shortage in these professions, but I'd like to see some sort of "try before you buy" for GPs and psychs.

    The AMA (Qld) just released this website and iPhone app that helps you find a local doctor in Australia. http://www.amafindadoctor.com.au/

      Good link. Thanks.

    My best tip is to find a practice that is run by the doctors, rather than by one of the corporate management companies. Unfortunately some of the good clinics have closed their books.

    I would go for a smaller practice that has a solo doctor or two or three that work together.

    Be careful of larger medical centres because the doctors are under pressure to see more and more patients. Having said that you can still find good doctors in large medical centres.

    If you feel they might be rushing you in and out then that's not a good sign.

    I find it incredibly difficult as well, I rarely see a doctor in any case, but when I do I'm usually going to the crappy bulk billing place where they're more keen to get through as many patients as possible then actually look after your welfare. I'd love to find a doctor that actually takes the time to check up on you when you infrequently visit, but it's so hard to find now days. I've had a little success in the past by looking at the "recommended" doctors from my private health insurance provider, but they can be few and far between.

    And there is always the problem of actually getting an appointment with a good doctor when you need it. It's alright to schedule check-ups or shots weeks in advanced, unfortunately that isn't possible when you need a medical cert for work.

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