Almost every day North Coast GPs receive flyers, brochures, letters or faxes advising of a new practitioner in the area, or a new service being opened. The practice address book, even though it is electronic, is overflowing.

The North Coast Primary Health Network's  Health Pathways addresses this problem to some extent. It combines local guidelines with a services directory. However, despite best efforts, recent information is missing and old data is soon out of date.

Government websites like the AHPRA directory state only the suburb and postcode of the practitioner. Commercial entities, such as Health Engine and myDr, have only limited information about practices and their services.

Frustrated by the difficulty in determining patient out-of-pocket specialist costs, Sydney GP, Dr Richard Zhu, has started his own website to collate this information. Seek-medi lists the clinician’s physical address and website, if any, the fees for private patients and health care card holders, whether they bulk bill or not, and, if not, what the gap payment will be. Unfortunately, as a one man, private undertaking, Dr Zhu cannot keep the database fully up to date and it is far from complete. 

Local GP, Dr Arthur Proudfoot, has also taken up the challenge to collate health data. He is setting up a website that will allow medical and allied health practitioners to advise of their specialty and subspecialty interests, their waiting times and fees. The web site is in the design phase but should go live next year.  

In the interim the NCPHN is advertising for a part time clinical nurse adviser as another way of dealing with the problem. The new position has three roles; assist practices in navigating the healthcare system on behalf of their patients, strengthening the local practice nurse network and providing a practice nurse perspective to the North Coast Primary Health Network on local health issues. 

The clinical advisor will work with general practices on North Coast Health Pathways to facilitate faster and more efficient care. The adviser will also be involved in the dissemination of information about other non-medical services available for patients on the North Coast. The position is part-time (24 hours per week) and applications close on Monday, 20 November 2017.

The delay and waste of resources from incomplete knowledge of service availability has been a constant headache for GPs for years. The ever increasing numbers of specialists and allied health workers on the Gold Coast and Northern Rivers only compounds the problem. Hopefully some of these new initiatives will bear fruit and help us out of the current medical maze.