We sat down with HealthShare Medical Director and Bondi-based GP, Dr. Jill Gamberg, to discuss factors that influence the GP referral pathway.
Dr. Jill, thanks for meeting with us. In your experience, what are the most common questions that patients ask GPs when they’re being referred to a Specialist?
Great question. The most common question patients ask is “Is the Doctor good at what they do?”. It can be an unsettling experience to learn that your medical condition has to be referred to a Specialist and every patient wants to feel comfortable that they’re in good hands. Once the patient has been reassured, typically the questions that follow are “How long will I have to wait to see them?”, “How far do I have to travel?” and “How much will the appointment cost?”. After patients have an understanding of their treatment pathway, the questions that follow are almost always about logistics, treatment affordability and wait times.
What impact does geographic proximity have on choosing a Specialist to refer the patient to?
Geographic proximity to the patient certainly plays a part, but it is by no means the most important factor. Where there are mobility issues, such as patients who are elderly or have disabilities, geographic location may be a factor we consider when writing a referral; but, for the most part, patients are willing to travel if it means they can secure an appointment with a Specialist sooner.
What do you think is the most important factor for a GP when choosing a Specialist to refer a patient to?
Absolutely and without question, the most important factor for a GP when referring a patient is the Specialist’s level of expertise and ability to treat the patient effectively.
Another factor that we take into consideration is a Specialists’ availability to see patients quickly. Generally speaking, most patients would prefer to see Specialists sooner rather than later, whether their condition is medically urgent or not. They want peace of mind that their condition won’t deteriorate in the time it takes them to see the Specialist, so this can be an important motivator.
HealthShare’s Specialist Directory, embedded inside GP referral software, is particularly useful because it allows GPs to view Specialist key interest areas and make assessments about the alignment between the patient’s condition and the Specialist’s areas of expertise.
How regularly do patients come to you with a specific Specialist already in mind?
I’d estimate that approximately a third of my patients come to me with a specific Specialist in mind. Patients typically do their research online, both in terms of condition awareness and potential Specialists to be referred to, before they present to the GP clinic. They also pay attention to practitioner ratings. Patients often come into the clinic with good recommendations from friends and family about which Specialist they should be referred to. However, most of the time, they don’t already have a specific Specialist in mind and they value a recommendation from their GP.
Are there any common misconceptions that patients have about being referred to a Specialist?
Probably the most common misconception patients have is that the Specialist will be able to automatically solve their problem. Healthcare is a complicated industry and every case is different. All doctors endeavor to diagnose a condition, manage symptoms and treat their patients’ ailments to the best of their abilities, but there are no guarantees and we try to be as upfront and open about this as possible.
Thank you, Dr. Jill. It’s a pleasure speaking to you as always.