Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Navigating Alternative Healthcare

--FEATURE: "Heart of Healing w/Christopher Fischer, N.D"--

In this world of ever expanding “alternative” therapies and therapists, how can you be confident that your therapist has the skills, training, and experience, to treat you and your health issues? The old trial and error philosophy can be very costly and sometimes even dangerous.

I am somewhat surprised at the numbers of patients I see who have had bad experiences with both “conventional” and “alternative” practitioners and when asked, they have done no research, and not asked any questions before they committed to extensive and costly therapies.

It could be a white coat, or perhaps the trusting nature of humanity, but there are many red flags one should be aware of before setting foot in anyone’s office (including mine).

Does the person have the highest level of training in their profession as well as each therapy they provide?

This is all about research. In general, the more training someone has, the more qualified they become. Is the person licensed or certified by a government agency or some mail order diploma. An example would be the Chiropractor who also does herbal therapies. Their herbal training did not likely happen at Chiro. school. A weekend certificate course is great but not to treat others.

Does the particular practice have a specialty?

Having a specialty should involve more training in a specific area. No practitioner can treat everything the most effectively (even those infomercials). If you find a specialist ask all the same questions, don’t assume they are the best for you.. If there isn’t a specialist, find out how many patients your practitioner has treated with your condition
and their success rate. Vague answers are generally not honest.

Given your specific health concerns, ask clearly how long until you can expect results, and what will those results be?

Perhaps the most important yet least often asked. Any practitioner with any amount of experience can answer this accurately. Make sure your, and your practitioners, expectations are the same and of course realistic Yes, overnight cures are not realistic.

Be honest with yourself and your practitioner.

Lying on your diet diary doesn’t help anyone, especially you. The practitioner is not there to condemn you (at least should not be). You are not stupid because you know you could be living a better lifestyle. It is not that simple. Our behaviors are deep and complicated and least often related to will power or intelligence. Be honest with your practitioner to get the maximum benefits of treatment.

Tell your “conventional” doctor everything you are doing/taking. Really.

I know they may not understand, that’s ok, don’t expect a conventional doctor to be an expert in alternative therapies or visa versa. In my practice if there is ever a question that two therapies may overlap or interact I pick up the phone and call the other doctor.
Every confident practitioner should be comfortable discussing their methods. We can’t all be experts in everything..

“Conventional” or “Alternative” or some of each, pick the approach that is right for you.

With all due respect to the “alternative” medicine zealots out there, “alternative” therapies are not right for everyone. Yes, I said it…. It is not responsible, objective, or in any way professional to insist that a patient do only one type of therapy, there are many options. Let’s be honest, not everyone is ready to undertake a treatment involving personal and financial commitment. That’s ok, maybe they will be in the future.

What is most important is that they use the therapy with the least risk and best chance of success given their level of commitment. Sometimes that is..”conventional” or in many cases “alternative” however that is where practitioners need to talk about the best interests of the patient and make realistic recommendations.

Don’t be overwhelmed. Getting to know your practitioner better can only benefit you both, and lead to greater success. It is not logical to ask more questions of the car dealer than the doctor. Break through your fears, and if you do not get acceptable answers, find another practitioner. You will be glad you did.

Christopher Fischer is a Naturpathic Physician and is the President of Natural Health Specialist in East Northport New York. He received his Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University.

Christopher regularly collaborates with traditional healthcare providers to assure for continuity of care. He has also has worked extensively in various therapeutic capacities in traditional medical settings including; the Swedish Hospital in Ballard WA, Saint John's Hospital in Smithtown New York and South Oaks Hospital in Amityville New York.

He frequently lectures on Naturopathic Medicine and natural healing, and has been a contributing expert for American Spa Magazine, Creations Magazine, The Northport Observer as well as the Natural Health Show on METRO TV (NY). He is the proud father of two boys and resides in East Northport New York.

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