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I have a health concern, what do I do?

With Dr Hamish Black, Group Medical Advisor, nib Dr Hamish Black

Dr Hamish Black answers your health concern questions

An unwell young man laying in bed while looking at his phone
An unwell young man laying in bed while looking at his phone

It’s inevitable that sooner or later (and for most of us, it’s sooner) we’ll have a health concern. But, whether it’s a sore shoulder, a migraine that keeps coming back, digestive issues or a skin condition, it’s hard to know where to start when it comes to getting help.

And when you do get help, do you know what to ask? How much should you budget for all the specialist visits?

Give it more than a moment’s thought and you’ll probably end up with more questions than you had when you did that Year 12 physics exams.

That’s where we come in. To help keep things simple, we partnered with nib Group Medical Advisor Dr Hamish Black to answer some of the biggest questions you might have when you’ve got a health concern.

Related: Dr Who? Google can now help diagnose your symptoms

Who should I see?

The best port of call when you feel like something isn’t right, or you think you should get something checked out, is to make an appointment with your GP or primary healthcare provider. Hamish recommends that you try and be consistent with which doctor you see, as they’ll then have a better overview of your health journey.

“You should also consider signing up for My Health Record, so that if you do visit a different GP, they’ll be able to access important information from your past appointments,” explains Hamish.

Related: Know the kinds of health checks you should be getting at every stage of life.

What questions should I ask the GP?

Are you one of those people who like to refer to Dr Google before visiting the real-life doctor? It’s not necessarily a bad thing to do Hamish says.

“There’s nothing wrong with arming yourself with as much knowledge as possible; especially when it comes to your health. Just make sure you use good resources and don’t become fixated on a certain ailment or illness.”

One of the big mistakes that patients make is being passive during their appointment. Hamish encourages patients to take an active role in their health and ask questions when they’re not sure about something.

If you’ve got a health concern, state it up front when you visit your GP.

“If you’ve got a health concern, state it up front when you visit your GP. Tell them exactly why you’re concerned and what you think you might have. Let them know if you have any fears, especially related to family history.”

If your doctor recommends a procedure, surgery or treatment that you’re uncomfortable or nervous about, it’s essential that you ask some questions to ensure you’re educated and empowered. Finding out if there are risks and knowing what the recovery period will be like is important. For a more comprehensive list of things to ask, check out our article, 7 questions you need to ask your doctor to avoid unnecessary surgery.

Looking for a specialist? Head to nib’s Find a Provider tool. This tool allows you to search from a community of specially selected health providers.

What alternative treatments are available?

If you’re being recommended an invasive procedure or a treatment plan, it’s important to talk to your GP or specialist about your options. If your condition doesn’t require urgency, you might find that losing some weight or incorporating more exercise into your lifestyle could help reduce your risk. At nib, we offer a number of Health Management Programs to help our members improve their overall health and wellbeing and stay out of hospital.

Will I have to pay for my GP appointment?

The short answer is sometimes.

Some GPs bulk-bill their patients, which means that you won’t be out-of-pocket for treatment, but if your GP doesn’t bulk-bill, you’ll be required to pay for part of the cost of the appointment – Medicare covers a percentage. We’ve put together an article on bulk-billing to explain it in more detail: Everything you need to know about bulk-billing.

Whoever you plan on seeing, always request a quote before going to any appointment, that way you reduce your risk of getting an expensive surprise.
For nib members who are planning on visiting a dentist, optometrist or physiotherapist, we recommend searching for a provider using our Find a Provider tool. Although you’re welcome to see a specialist of your choosing, this tool simply allows you to see the locations and contact information of local providers Depending on your cover, nib may also pay benefits for your visit. If you’re not sure what you’re covered for, head to member account to view your policy details.

If you're planning on going to hospital, it’s important that you contact nib for advice on reducing out-of-pockets. We can also, provide you with a cover check and give you average treatment costs for many procedures. Check out our article, Going to hospital? Here's why you should contact nib first., for more.

Dr Hamish Black

Dr Hamish Black

With Dr Hamish Black, Group Medical Advisor, nib

Dr Hamish Black

Dr Hamish Black has been a medical practitioner for more than 25 years. In addition to his role as nib group medical advisor, he still spends two days a week practising as a GP. He has spent many years working in emergency departments and in rural Australia, including a stint with the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Hamish also loves karaoke and dancing (though not that well at either, he says!), with Play that Funky Music by Wild Cherry being his karaoke favourite.