Should you always stick to the same GP?

The relationship between you and your GP can mean a lot.

As we age, the doctor’s office seems to become a place we spend and more time visiting. Niggling issues, pain, prescriptions and general checkups all become more prevalent and as we increase these visits the relationship with our GP becomes more important than ever.

While some people will switch up their doctor with every visit, preferring to see whoever is available that day, there is good cause for finding a GP you trust and building a relationship together.

Australian Medical Association Vice President Dr Tony Bartone told Starts at 60 becoming familiar with your GP helps both the patient and the doctor when it comes to keeping you as healthy as possible.

“Anything which increases or enhances the doctor’s understanding of all that’s gone on before and the patient’s history is a plus when it comes to dealing with the onset or the prevention of medical conditions,” he said.

“Understanding the family history or the emotional and mental issues you’ve had to deal with, with life or with work, has got to be a plus in terms of treating the patient.”

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It’s not just your medical history your GP will be tracking either. GPs are trained to pick up emotional cues and changes in body language, so a slight change in your demeanour can go a long way towards helping them provide the right treatment and care you need.

“Even the way you sit in the chair tells me a lot about what’s going on at home and how you might be feeling,” Mr Bartone said.

“We are taught about subliminal clues and how to read patients’ body language and understand what’s going on without words.

“The body language of a patient can tell me a lot; how you’re speaking, how you’re behaving. All these things give subtle clues into how a patient is feeling at the time and how to treat them.”

Building trust

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If there is one key component to a doctor/patient relationship, it’s trust. Having a GP you trust is vital when it comes to getting the most out of your visit and the money you’re spending for the time in the chair.

It’s possible there will be times you question why your doctor has prescribe a particular treatment. This has become more prevalent over the years largely thanks to Doctor Google, with patients often self-diagnosing before even stepping foot in the doctor’s office.

Rather than thrusting a fistful of Google printouts into your doctor’s face though, you should feel comfortable enough to pose the question to them and ask to go over their decision with you.

“You’ve got to feel comfortable enough to tell them what problems you’re having,” Mr Bartone said. “If you have a good relationship with your GP you’ll feel less uncomfortable about it.

“Instead of at the beginning or end, perhaps in the middle of the consult ask them, ‘Why are you recommending this?’ and talk it through with them.”

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Moving on

If you are thinking about switching GPs, ask your doctor to print out a copy of your medical history and your appointment notes so you can take them along to your new physician or have them on file yourself at home.

Your GP will be able to electronically transfer your medical files to your new doctor, but some patients prefer to have a hardcopy at home, too.

Most importantly, keep track of your health and note any changes you see happening over time. The more information you can give your GP, new or old, the better they will be able to treat and care for you. 

Do you always see the same GP? Do you feel like you have a good relationship with them?