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The role of a geriatrician

6-minute read

Key facts

  • A geriatrician is an expert in caring for older people.
  • Geriatricians can help manage a wide range of problems for healthy ageing.
  • You will need a referral from your general practitioner to see a geriatrician.

What is a geriatrician?

A geriatrician is a specialist doctor who is an expert in the health of older people (those aged 65 and older). A minimum of 6 years full-time training is needed to specialise in this area.

When should I see a geriatrician?

You might decide to see a geriatrician if you are older than 65 years and need expertise in managing several health conditions at the same time. You may have complex health needs, or use different types of medicines.

Some geriatricians specialise in particular health areas, for example:

How do I find a geriatrician?

Geriatricians work in hospitals, private clinics and residential aged care facilities. They might also visit people in their homes.

Ask your doctor, close friends or family to recommend a good geriatrician. You can also use healthdirect's service finder to find a geriatrician near you.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

Do I need a referral to see a geriatrician?

It is important to get a referral from your doctor to see the geriatrician. That way, your doctor can pass on useful information.

The referral may include:

  • your medical history
  • relevant pathology results
  • medications and any current symptoms and difficulties
  • other health professional documentation such as health assessments and care plans

If you don't have a referral, neither Medicare nor private health insurance will contribute to the cost of your care.

What should I expect during an appointment with a geriatrician?

If you are seeing a geriatrician, they should conduct a comprehensive assessment to help them understand your physical and mental condition, as well as your social situation.

They might refer you to other specialists and/or to support services.

They might also put together a management plan or healthcare plan to help keep you as healthy and as independent as possible.

Soon after your visit, the geriatrician will generally send a written report, including a management plan to the referring GP.

What questions should I ask a geriatrician?

Geriatricians are trained across the broad spectrum of health care and will be very happy to try to answer any questions you have to help you improve your health, and to age well.

Your doctor will usually provide a written referral outlining what needs to be addressed.

You can use healthdirect’s question builder to help you better prepare for your medical appointment by creating a list of questions to ask your doctor.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.

How much will a geriatrician cost?

The costs of a geriatrician visit vary greatly, depending on the type of care you receive. Factors include whether it’s in hospital, whether you have private health insurance, and on what the geriatrician charges.

Out of hospital care

If you see a geriatrician in their rooms, then Medicare will cover:

  • all costs if they bulk bill
  • some of the costs if they don't bulk bill

You can't use any private health insurance for out of hospital care.

Treatment in a public hospital using Medicare

If you are treated as a public patient in a public hospital or clinic and use Medicare, it is free. Medicare covers all costs.

Treatment in hospital using private health insurance

If you use private health insurance for treatment in either a public hospital or a private hospital or clinic, you will be charged by the geriatrician and by the hospital. You might also be charged for diagnostic testing, such as pathology tests, x-rays and other forms of imaging (such as an MRI, PET or CT scan), and by other doctors you see. Your private health insurance will cover some of these costs.

Asking about costs

It can be expensive to see specialists.

Before you go for the first time, ask the geriatrician or their staff about the costs. You should also ask what Medicare will cover.

If you plan to use private health insurance, you can also contact your health fund.

If the costs are too high, you can:

  • ask the geriatrician or their staff for a reduced rate
  • consider another geriatrician or health service
  • talk to your GP about other options

Resources and support

  • My Aged Care has information on help and support for older Australians. Call 1800 200 422.
  • The Australian Government's Services Australia (formerly the Department of Human Services) website has information about healthcare and payments for older Australians.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: January 2023

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Geriatrician - Better Health Channel

A geriatrician is a doctor with specialist training in caring for the health of older people (geriatric medicine).

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