Information for the Public
AMA Victoria is the peak professional body representing doctors from all sectors of the medical workforce.
We look after the needs and interests of our members, and are committed to ensuring access to quality health care for all Victorians. Our members put their collective strength behind state and national campaigns, lobbying to influence public health policies and regulations to improve the health of the community.
Medicine is more than a career. It is a vocation which requires far more than excellent academic performance at university.
It requires determination and a very genuine commitment to help others by making a positive difference to their health and wellbeing and with this provides much greater rewards than financial security alone.
Doctors work to prevent, diagnose, and treat illnesses and injuries, and generally help people to remain healthy.
The variety of careers available to medical graduates is enormous. Few professions can boast such a diversity of opportunity, ranging from general practice to surgery, pathology to obstetrics and gynaecology, and paediatrics to psychiatry.
Where, when and how
You might find it more convenient to see a GP closer to your work rather than home.
If its important for you to be able to see the doctor out of normal working hours, ask the receptionist if this service is available.
Ask how you will be billed when you make an appointment. You may be able to get a discount if you pay up-front; it may cost more to have an appointment on a Sunday; or the practice may bulk-bill.
If English is not your first language and you would feel more comfortable with a doctor who speaks your language, use Doctor Search for a doctor to suit your needs.
The first appointment
If your health concerns might take longer with the doctor than the average appointment time, ask for a longer appointment when you book. That helps reduce waiting time for other patients.
It is important that you do not leave the consultation with unanswered questions. It’s worth bringing a pen and paper to note down important points you want to cover and the answers. You can ask your doctor to write the main points you need to remember.
You must be able to feel comfortable about speaking freely and openly with your doctor. Things you tell your doctor are confidential.
Once you have found a GP you feel comfortable with, it is important you both maintain a good patient-doctor partnership to ensure your health needs are met.
Most Australian GPs charge their patients on a fee-for-service basis each time they see their GP.
When you visit a specialist, you will be billed for the consultation and any procedures. Specialists charge a price that reflects their training and their expertise and the cost of running their business.
Rebates you receive from the Commonwealth Government are based on the Medicare Rebate Schedule price for consultations and procedures.
Medicare provides a rebate each time you consult a GP. How much you receive depends on the length and type of consultation and any tests or procedures carried out.
The rebate for specialist consultations is 85% of the Medicare rebate schedule.
If you have a specialist procedure, the rebate is 75% if you are treated as a private patient and 85% if your specialist works through a public hospital outpatients department.
If you have private health insurance you may receive another rebate (25% of the Medicare scheduled price for that procedure).
Bulk-billing and other ways to save
Over time the Medicare rebate has failed to keep pace with the costs of running a medical practice. Since 1985, Medicare rebates have on average increased by 38%, while the Consumer Price Index) has increased by 72% and average weekly earnings by 74%. This is why some doctors who used to bulk-bill are now charging patients a fee.
When Medicare first began, many GPs bulk-billed because it was easy for the patient and rebates were close to the costs of providing that service.
Some GPs still bulk-bill and many GPs bulk-bill pensioners. Bulk-billing means you sign a form for the Medicare rebate to be paid straight to the GP. You pay no out-of-pocket fee at a bulk-billed service.
If you do not have private health insurance and cannot afford to pay for a specialist’s services, you should let your GP know your financial circumstances. You may be referred to a specialist who works from a public hospital.
If a condition is likely to be easily treated in the specialist's rooms or a day hospital, it may be affordable from a patient’s own pocket. Some people ‘self insure’ for health care by putting aside money each month in a high interest earning account and drawing on it when needed.
Gaps you may need to pay – health insurance and your financial circumstances
Patients, including health care card holders, may need to pay an out-of-pocket or gap fee to cover the difference between the Medicare rebate and the fee the GP or specialist charges for the service.
Ask what gap fee you may have to pay when making an appointment.
Pay on the day: GPs who charge a fee may ask you to pay on the day of your consultation. Sometimes there is a discount if you do this. You can then take your paid account to Medicare and get a cash rebate. Some doctors may lodge your claim for you. Your rebate can be paid straight into your bank account or as a cheque sent to your home.
Account to pay later: Some GPs may give you the account on your way out or send it to you in the mail. You will need to pay the account. You can either pay it in full and then claim your rebate or send the account with a completed Medicare form to Medicare. You will receive a cheque from Medicare in four weeks or so. Send that to the doctor with the gap shown on the bill.
Paperwork: Some GPs will perform all the paperwork for you. You then receive a cheque in the mail for the amount of your rebate, payable to the doctor. Send that to the doctor with the gap (if any) shown on the bill.
Some private health insurance funds promise ‘no gap’ products. You should check the details of these products carefully, as there may be special conditions attached. These products may also limit your choice of treating doctor and hospital.
Most doctors do their utmost for their patients, but there may be a time when you are unhappy with the care you receive from a medical practitioner. If this happens:
- Talk to your doctor about why you are unhappy with the care or advice you have received. They should be willing to discuss any concerns you have.
- You may prefer to discuss your concerns with another doctor in the practice or the practice manager. If you are unhappy with these responses, or you think the care you received was not of a good standard, then you may consider contacting the Health Complaints Commissioner.
- The Health Complaints Commissioner is an independent and accessible ombudsman. The Commissioner strongly emphasises conciliation in resolving complaints between patients and providers. Serious complaints are investigated. The Commissioner also recommends action to improve health services.You may go to the Commissioner if you have a complaint about the services of dentists, medical practitioners, hospitals, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, social workers in a health setting, ambulances, nursing homes, hostels, supported residential services, nurses, naturopaths, acupuncturists, and others. The Commissioner will determine if your complaint is a serious matter affecting standards of care and whether it should be referred to the Medical Practitioners Board.
Health Complaints Commissioner
Level 26, 570 Bourke St Melbourne Vic 3000
Complaints and information: 1300 582 113
Fax: (03) 9032 3111
- The Medical Board of Australia is a statutory authority, established to protect the public and guide doctors in relation to standards and professional conduct. The board registers medical practitioners with appropriate qualifications and training, investigates complaints relating to professional conduct and fitness to practice and develops guidelines for doctors on a range of issues. The Board protects the community from any doctor who may be unqualified, incompetent, or unprofessional.
Medical Board of Australia
Concerned about a health practitioner?
For notifications about a health practitioner, see Make a Notification or phone 1300 419 495.
The doctor-patient relationship is based on mutual respect and collaboration. In this partnership, both the doctor and the patient have rights as well as responsibilities. AMA members are guided by the AMA Code of Ethics and Medical Registration Board of Victoria guidelines.
Some things to consider:
Your role in the partnership
- If you think you have a complex problem or have a number of issues to talk about – ask for a longer appointment when you book.
- Ask questions about your treatment, procedures, prescriptions and medications
- Tell your doctor if you are taking natural therapies, acupuncture or alternative medicines
- If this is your first appointment, tell your doctor about your past health problems. Every piece of information you provide will help the doctor to make a diagnosis.
- If you are taking medication, bring it with you when you see your doctor
- Contact your doctor straight away if the medication causes you any problems
- Listen to the doctor’s advice. Not all illnesses need prescriptions for medication.
- Follow the treatment your doctor prescribes.
- Your doctor will discuss tests or referrals if they are needed and will help you.
- Try to keep your appointments and let your doctor know if you can’t get there.
The doctor’s role in the partnership
- Doctors should keep accurate and comprehensive records of their consultations with you.
- They should advise you on all the treatment options they know about.
- Doctors should try to follow appointment times to reduce waiting time, or let you know if they are running behind schedule. Patients can expect doctors to provide a comfortable reception lounge.
- They should provide clear information about the way the practice bills you.
- AMA-member doctors are guided by our Code of Ethics which extensively outline their responsibilities to patients.