Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM): How to Select a Practitioner
Selecting a Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) Practitioner - Part 2
More Steps to selecting a Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) Practitioner
4. I have located the names of several practitioners. How do I select one?
Begin by contacting the practitioners on your list and gathering information.
Ask what training or other qualifications the practitioner has. Ask about her education, additional training, licenses, and certifications. If you contacted a professional organization, see if the practitioner's qualifications meet the standards for training and licensing for that profession.
Ask if it is possible to have a brief consultation in person or by phone with the practitioner. This will give you a chance to speak with the practitioner directly. The consultation may or may not involve a charge.
Ask if there are diseases/health conditions in which the practitioner specializes and how frequently he treats patients with problems similar to yours.
Ask if the practitioner believes the therapy can effectively address your complaint and if there is any scientific research supporting the treatment's use for your condition.
Ask how many patients the practitioner typically sees in a day, and how much time she spends with each patient.
Ask whether there is a brochure or Web site to tell you more about the practice.
Ask about charges and payment options. How much do treatments cost? If you have insurance, does the practitioner accept your insurance or participate in your insurer's network? Even with insurance, you may be responsible for a percentage of the cost.
Ask about the hours appointments are offered. How long is the wait for an appointment? Consider whether this will be convenient for your schedule. Ask about office location. If you are concerned, ask about public transportation and parking. If you need a building with an elevator or a wheelchair ramp, ask about them.
Ask what will be involved in the first visit or assessment.
Observe how comfortable you feel during these first interactions.
Once you have gathered the information, assess the answers and determine which practitioner was best able to respond to your questions and best suits your needs.
5. I have selected a practitioner. What questions should I ask at my first visit?
The first visit is very important. Come prepared to answer questions about your health history, such as surgeries, injuries, and major illnesses, as well as prescriptions, vitamins, and other supplements you take. Not only will the practitioner wish to gather information from you, but you will want to ask questions, too. Write down ahead of time the questions you want to ask, or take a family member or friend with you to help you remember the questions and answers. Some people bring a tape recorder to record the appointment. (Ask the practitioner for permission to do this in advance.) Here are some questions you may want to ask:
What benefits can I expect from this therapy?
What are the risks associated with this therapy?
Do the benefits outweigh the risks for my disease or condition?
What side effects can be expected?
Will the therapy interfere with any of my daily activities?
How long will I need to undergo treatment?
How often will my progress or plan of treatment be assessed?
Will I need to buy any equipment or supplies?
Do you have scientific articles or references about using the treatment for my condition?
Could the therapy interact with conventional treatments?
Are there any conditions for which this treatment should not be used?
6. How do I know if the practitioner I have selected is right for me?
After your first visit with a practitioner, evaluate the visit. Ask yourself:
Was the practitioner easy to talk to? Did the practitioner make me feel comfortable?
Was I comfortable asking questions? Did the practitioner appear willing to answer them, and were they answered to my satisfaction?
Was the practitioner open to how both CAM therapy and conventional medicine might work together for my benefit?
Did the practitioner get to know me and ask me about my condition?
Did the practitioner seem knowledgeable about my specific health condition?
Does the treatment recommended seem reasonable and acceptable to me?
Was the practitioner clear about the time and costs associated with treatment?
7. Can I change my mind about the treatment or the practitioner?
Yes, if you are not satisfied or comfortable, you can look for a different practitioner or stop treatment. However, as with any conventional treatment, talk with your practitioner before stopping to make sure that it is safe to simply stop treatment--it may not be advisable to stop some therapies midway through a course of treatment.
Discuss with your practitioner the reasons you are not satisfied or comfortable with treatment. If you decide to stop a therapy or seek another practitioner, make sure that you share this information with any other health care practitioners you may have as this will help them make decisions about your care. Communicating with your practitioner(s) can be key to ensuring the best possible health care.
8. Can I receive treatment or a referral to a practitioner from NCCAM?
NCCAM is the Federal Government's lead agency dedicated to supporting research on CAM therapies. NCCAM does not provide CAM therapies or referrals to practitioners.
9. Can I receive CAM treatment through a clinical trial?
NCCAM supports clinical trials (research studies in people) of CAM therapies. Clinical trials of CAM are taking place in many locations worldwide, and study participants are needed. To find out more about clinical trials in CAM, see the NCCAM fact sheet "About Clinical Trials and Complementary and Alternative Medicine." To find trials that are recruiting participants, go to the Web site nccam.nih.gov/clinicaltrials. You can search this site by the type of therapy being studied or by disease or condition.
Conventional medicine is medicine as practiced by holders of M.D. (medical doctor) or D.O. (doctor of osteopathy) degrees and by their allied health professionals, such as physical therapists, psychologists, and registered nurses. Other terms for conventional medicine include allopathy; Western, mainstream, orthodox, and regular medicine; and biomedicine. Some conventional medical practitioners are also practitioners of CAM.
NCCAM has provided this material for your information. It is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your primary health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your health care provider. The mention of any product, service, or therapy in this information is not an endorsement by NCCAM.
National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, Maryland 20892 USA
NCCAM Publication No. D168
Date Reviewed: August 2003
Editorial Changes Made: September 2004