No one likes the thought of growing old but as we all know, it’s a fact of life. Another fact or two is that 36.1 per cent of older Australians are on five or more prescription medications while 28 per cent have been diagnosed with three or more chronic medical conditions.
So, a trip to your GP comes around as regularly as the seasons of the year, and, unfortunately, the older we become the likelihood these visits to our medical professionals are becoming frequent.
It raises the question of finding the best ways in which older Australians can get the most out of their next GP consultation. Older Australians can benefit from knowing there are efficient and helpful digital health tools designed to foster engagement, empathy, and understandings that link people to quality health resources that create meaningful and effective communication.
It goes without saying, staying on top of your medical needs is paramount to making sure you are receiving the proper care and attention from your GP, to enjoy your life to the fullest.
For your next visit to your GP, start by writing down an agenda of things to discuss. This could be an agenda using pen and paper or a pre-consultation digital questionnaire that the GP can access beforehand.
More and more people are starting to use digital questionnaires as pre-consultation tools capturing patients’ presenting symptoms, medical history, and other relevant clinical information. These digital tools enable patients to save time and maintain privacy by filling out the questionnaires from the comfort of their own homesnm.
Often, there may be several issues that older Australians would like to raise. Prior to the appointment, rank the issues according to what is most important and let the doctor know upfront how many issues there are. That way, nothing gets missed and a longer appointment can be arranged, if needed. Taking the time to do this relieves a lot of pressure trying to remember someone’s complex medical history and medication and to focus on your consult/rapport building with the GP. It also helps the GP plan the consultation as well as ensuring all issues are being addressed in a comprehensive manner and not rushed because of time constraints. Understand that not all issues may be addressed in a single appointment.
As we know, many older Australians have multiple medications prescribed to them. If seeing a new GP, consider bringing either a medication list or a box of the medications to show the GP.
1. Consider bringing a support person along if needed – for better clarity and comfort
2. For people with non-English speaking backgrounds and/or who have limited proficiency in English, consider phoning beforehand to let the GP and the practice staff know so they can arrange an interpretation service. It is important to remember that 20 per cent of older Australians were born in non-English speaking countries. It is best multicultural practice to offer/use interpreting services when available for this subset of the population
3. Bring a pen/paper to note down things discussed during the consultation as well as reading glasses and/or hearing aids if needed to ensure efficient information transfer.
It is a well-known fact that since COVID, the pressure on GPs has grown dramatically and one way of helping is for them to keep pace with digital innovations. For example, a Specialist Referral Directory has been developed that is integrated within leading GP software. The Specialist Referrals Directory reaches up to 90 per cent of referring GPs as well as reaching over 850,000 visitors. It highlights a GPs location, specialty, sub-specialties, special interest areas, languages spoken, and key services such as telehealth
Importantly, older Australians need to consider visiting their GP regularly, not just when they feel unwell, to ensure preventative care like health checks, immunisations and their Myhealth record information is up to date. Regular reviews and preventative care activities ensure that in the event of an acute issue, all the information gathering has already been done.
IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.