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Dr Duncan

Ancillary services

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One of the things that nearly everyone does in their lives is to develop relationships. Most are good for us, some might not be so good for us - however, experience is a great teacher! I mention this because medicine is just the same as other areas of life. We don’t work in isolation and we do need to foster good relationships with other professionals within the wider field of medical care.

I have always relied heavily on the “ladies” at the front desk who order my life and are always a source of insight, common sense and understanding. They know the “regulars” and will often discern who needs immediate attention and who can be “slotted into” a later appointment time. This is a critical relationship, because if it doesn’t work properly then it’s not us who suffers, but the patient, and that is not a healthy outcome for anyone. But it’s not just our own staff that we doctors need to develop relationships with, it’s all those colleagues in the ancillary areas that provide necessary services to our mutual patients.

Take opticians for example. Sight is one of those gifts that we take too much for granted. When we lose it, life certainly becomes more difficult and far more limited. Unless it’s a patient who comes in with a foreign object in their eye or a simple eye infection, most people will go to an optician to get their eyes checked. In my experience, if a patient presents directly to a GP with a problem that is vision related, they have often reached a stage of permanent damage - think glaucoma, macular degeneration or even stroke.

Opticians can suffer from the perception that they’re just trying to sell you new frames, but believe me a regular check up on your eyes can literally make your world a better place! From being able to directly view the back of your eye for any apparent damage, to checking the pressure within your eyes, to assessing the clarity of the lens and determine whether cataracts are forming, these are all functions that your optician will perform routinely. If they find things that need appropriate follow up, then they can point you in the right direction of an eye specialist.

Because I am a firm advocate of being physically active, I am also aware that even the youngest and fittest people can get injured, so I’ve always made it my business to get to know the physiotherapists in my area. They’ve also passed on the latest medically related information that could be useful to me at the surgery. Just about every physio that I’ve ever met has been extremely ethical, and they’ve always known when to draw the line at the edge of their expertise and when to refer on to an appropriate medical specialist. This has also been my experience with the chiropractors, occupational therapists and podiatrists that I have worked with.

One of the challenges that I have come across over the years is the person who has innate belief in the wisdom of the “neighbour over the back fence”, or something they read in a woman’s magazine, or the classic quote - “a mate of mine said ...”. This hearsay information of “one off” miracle cures can be difficult to counter. In Medicine we deal with “Best Practice” and that relies on distilling information from a huge number of cases so that we can offer treatments that we know are most likely to be successful. Opticians, physiotherapist, OT’s and chiropractors all subscribe to this philosophy too.

There is another professional group that we doctors rub shoulder with less often, but who are equally trained and skilled in what they do, and we all need their services at one time or another: I’m talking about dentists. When I was a lad I can remember being a very reluctant attendee at the dental surgery. This was mainly because the very large Scot who was our dentist used a “pedal powered” dental drill and thought that local anaesthetics was for weaklings! Moving forward many decades, and a visit to the dental surgery still has rumblings of those distant fears, but it’s now a totally different experience. The facilities in those places are just awesome and the level of care from dentist, dental nurses and receptionists is such that it’s less of a stress than going to have your car serviced!

Health care these days is so much more than just visiting the doctor. We humans are far too complex for just one doctor, or even one hospital to cope with. The field of medicine now relies very much on good and open cooperation between many differing ancillary practitioners, and that has had the effect of making medicine “healthier” too.

I can 100% guarantee that at some point in the next few years all of you will need to see a doctor, a dentist, a physio, a psychologist, an optician or a chiropracter, and you should have their names and phone numbers in your address book. If you’re not sure who and where they are, ask your Family GP, or contact the best health insurer in town - HBF.

Article written by Dr. Duncan Jefferson. More articles here. For more information on health care and private health cover, visit HBF Insurance at www.hbf.com.au.

The content of these articles is not tailored for any particular individual's circumstances. The author does not take into account your physical condition, medical history or any medication you may be taking. Any advice or information provided by the author cannot replace the advice of your health care professional. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent those of HBF unless clearly indicated.

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