Choosing a Healthcare Professional

In Australia, we really do have a lot of choice when it comes to who we might see for medical attention. This is not so true for those in remote Australia, but the vast majority of us live in cities and larger sized towns, so seeing a health care professional is usually pretty straight forward.

Health professionals come in many different forms. Most people will think of doctors when they think of what a health care professional actually is, but these professionals include more than doctors. Doctors (whether they are GP’s or specialists) are considered to be primary healthcare providers. Some highly qualified nurses are also thought of as primary healthcare providers. These medical professionals see people with very common, and very serious health problems.

Apart from doctors and nurses, there are allied health professionals who you might need to see from time to time. These people include physiotherapists, pharmacists, psychologists, dieticians and exercise physiologists (to name a few). The next group of health professionals include complementary and alternative medicine practitioners, which includes naturopaths, osteopaths, acupuncturists, remedial massage therapists, etc.

So, with all the choices, how do you choose a good health care professional? Well, depending on which profession you are choosing from, each group has different areas that you will want to know about.

First up, lets think about doctors. Medical training in Australia is excellent, so you don’t really need to know about a doctor’s level of education, apart from maybe wanting a GP who has a special interest in a certain area. For example, some people want a GP with an interest and further training in women’s health, sport, pain management, etc. It is really important to find a GP that suits you and to try and stick with them, rather than seeing lots of different doctors in different medical centres all over town. Someone who knows you and your medical history well is really valuable.

Most people will choose a GP or specialist based on a recommendation from family, friends or another healthcare worker. Talk to a friend or family member who is pretty similar to you. Who do they see, and why? Their doctor may suit you.

Allied health and complementary medicine practitioners are really varied in terms of their level of education and training, how long they trained for and what they specialise in. There is nothing wrong with finding out what qualifications they have, how long they have been in practice and what their area of further expertise is (if any). Most allied and complementary medicine practitioners have at least a Bachelors degree in their field and have studied for at least 3 to 4 years at university. They will be able to show you that they are registered with certain professional bodies. If they offer a specialty service, you can ask what further training they have in that area.

In general, for any health practitioner, here are some points that all good practitioners will have:

  • Friendly and helpful office staff
  • Office hours convenient to your schedule
  • A referral network of other great professionals
  • A desire to promote your involvement in your care
  • A good reputation among other patients and health professionals
  • A focus on disease treatment, wellness and prevention
  • High qualifications and memberships/registrations with professional bodies
  • A commitment to continually expanding their knowledge and further their education

Last of all, it always helps if you actually like your health care team, so think about what is important to you as a person. What communication style you prefer, friendly or more formal? A male or female practitioner? Maybe someone involved in community service? It’s worth taking the time to find the right people or person for you. The one-to-one practitioner/patient relationship can be very healing on its own, even before any treatment is given. Here are some great, trustworthy resources to help you on your search:

  • For Hospitals and Doctors: The Australian Health Service Alliance
  • For Hospitals, Doctors and Alternative Therapies: The Australian Regional Health Group
  • For Complementary Medicine: The Naturopath and Herbalists Association of Australia
  • For Alternative Medicine: Australian Natural Therapies Association