Below we will discuss some things you may want to consider when it comes to choosing your own doctor.
What are you likely to use your insurance on?
If you’re young and healthy, you may be considering taking out private health insurance to cover you for the unforeseen medical emergency – to use a crude anaology, getting hit by a bus. If you’re older and have a history of heart complications, this may be front-of-mind when considering insurance. The reality is that in both of these cases, it’s very unlikely that you will be choosing your doctor, even if you did have insurance. The more urgent the emergency (and getting hit by a bus or needing open-heart surgery certainly falls into this category), the less likely you are to decide on your treating physician. You will be seen by the best person at the time, through the public system.
Generally speaking, you are more likely to be able to choose your doctor for procedures where the need is known in advance, and you can schedule it in. The list of procedures that fall into this category is obviously a long one, but some common items include colonoscopies, nasal procedures, muscle and tendon issues, and of course, pregnancy.
Private patient in a public hospital
Depending on the reason for your hospital visit, there may be good reasons to go to a public hospital. Public hospitals are commonly believed to provide better treatment for serious and acute admissions, based on better facilities and equipment, and more experience dealing with complex cases.
If you are treated as a private patient in a public hospital, you may be able to be seen by a doctor of your choice. The doctor will need to have treating rights at the hospital, and each hospital’s policies will differ on this.
Asking for a second opinion in the public system
According to the Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights, we all have the right to participate in the decisions and choices that are made about our healthcare. This includes the right to ask for a second opinion, even when being treated as a public patient in a public hospital. While this won’t allow you to choose your doctor, it does give you slightly more control when being seen in the public system than many people realise.