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OSHC: Doctor (GP) Referrals to a Specialist in Australia

September 10, 2014

To see a medical specialist in Australia, you will first need to be referred by your GP (doctor). A GP can refer you to an appropriate specialist for customised care after making an assessment of your health issue. Before making an appointment with a specialist, a written referral letter is required from your GP. This letter contains information about your medical history, current medications and conditions, and a description of the medical issue being for which you are referred. When making an appointment with a specialist, the receptionist will request a copy of your referral letter, either to be sent to the specialist prior to your appointment, or to be brought in with you at the time of your appointment.

In Australia, specialists and GP's work together. If you see a specialist, they will have correspondence with your GP about your treatment and progress. Your GP will also communicate with your specialist about ongoing health issues that may be relevant.  For example, patients with a chronic health condition such as asthma, may have their condition managed by their GP and only need to see a specialist when their asthma flairs up.

International students often get confused about Australia's referral system. Kathy Matthews from Allianz Global Assistance said, "The Australian health care system itself and the processes (is the biggest issue related to Overseas Student Health Cover) i.e. referrals to a specialist, referrals for pathology, referrals for x-rays". Pathology, specialists and radiology (e.g. x-rays) will always require a referral from your GP or a doctor from the hospital. Be aware that many specialist providers often charge a large "out of pocket expense" in addition to what is contributed by your OSHC. It is always a good idea to ask your GP if they can refer your to a specialist provider that has a smaller out of pocket expense for students.


Please note:

  • Not all visits to specialists will attract a rebate from OSHC. "Dental and Optical is not covered for Australian Residents and is not covered for International Students," Matthews said. And many specialists will charge an out of pocket expense.

  • Dentists and allied health professionals (e.g. physiotherapists, podiatrists, chiropractors, psychologists, nutritionists) do not require a referral from you GP. However, some health conditions may entitle you to claim a portion of your allied health consultation.