How to Talk to Your Doctor About Alternative Medicine (Part Two) – Six Questions to Ask

By AltMed1-Peggy  

Continuing yesterday’s topic, let’s take a closer look at how to talk to your doctor about alternative medicine.

First, let me preface this with a few thoughts about talking with medical professionals in general.

When I schedule a “get acquainted” or first-visit appointment with a new doctor, I ask for extra time to discuss the doctor’s views on practice. I bring a list of questions – sometimes two copies, one to hand to the doctor, one to keep and jot notes on as we discuss the questions – and treat that part of the appointment as a job interview in which I’m the hiring manager.

That may seem strange to some.  After all, it wasn’t long ago that doctors were perceived as nearly godlike figures to be respected, revered, and obeyed but never questioned. Today, as medical professionals and medical schools recognize the importance of cultivating a partnership between doctors and patients, attitudes on both sides have changed.

You may not know which signs and symptoms indicate which diseases, as the doctor does. You may not know which medications have been proven most effective for which conditions, as the doctor does. But nobody knows how you feel better than you do, and nobody knows what’s normal for you and your body better than you do. You’re the CEO of your health and welfare. Medical professionals advise, but when it comes to your health, you make the decisions.

You wouldn’t hire a plumber or electrician or heating contractor or automobile repair service without asking about qualifications, areas of expertise, and attitudes that could affect the job he or she could do. Why not approach that first doctor-patient partnership interview the same way?




Ready?  Great. Now let’s look at SIX QUESTIONS to discuss with your doctor when you have The Talk. To help spur ideas, I’ll include samples of good answers that can lead to productive discussions with your doctor, and bad answers that lead to dead ends.

1. What is your opinion of alternative medicine?

Good answers:

* It depends on which treatment you’re talking about; some have proven successful in studies; others are useless or dangerous.

* I am open to treatments that are backed by scientific research.

* I haven’t given it much thought but am open to discussing it.

Bad answers:

* No.

* Alternative medicine is nothing more than a modern version of the old time snake oil scams.

* What’s that?

2. How knowledgeable would you say you are about alternative medicine?

Good answers:

* I have read several studies about it.

* I have attended a few conferences and presentations.

* I keep up with the latest research and reports on it.

Bad answers:

* Zero. I know next to nothing about it and am not interested.

* I’ve heard of it.

* I know someone who believes in that stuff who is a total nutcase.

3. Have you ever recommended an alternative medicine treatment?

Good answers:

* Often.

* A few times, when it seemed appropriate.

* It has not come up yet but I would if it seemed right for a patient and the patient wanted to try it.

Bad answers:

* Never.

* Anybody who wants that woo-woo-world medicine should go to a witch doctor, not me.

* Why do that when we have drugs and surgery?



4. Will you look into a treatment if I want to try it?

Good answers:

* Yes.

* Yes, if you tell me why you want to try it and what credible information you have about it.

* Probably. If I think it has some merit, yes, but if I know it doesn’t work or is fake, I will tell you that and won’t waste time researching further.

Bad answers:

* No.

* I have better things to do with my time.

* I wouldn’t know where to look.


5. What if I you recommend a prescription and I prefer to use a supplement, or you recommend a conventional treatment that I refuse in favor of an alternative treatment?

Good answers:

* As long as your health was not in danger and you keep me posted and come in for regular checks, I would go along with that.

* I would tell you what I think and recommend but it’s your body and your decision.

* If it is safe and it works for you, it’s fine with me.

Bad answers:

* I expect my patients to follow my recommendations or go elsewhere.

* I would tell you to take the prescription, period.

* I will mark your chart “patient is non-compliant.”

6. Would you write a referral if I needed one to have an alternative medicine treatment?

Good answers:

* Yes.

* If I know anyone to refer you to, I would.

* It may not always be possible but I would if it is possible.

Bad answers:

* No.

* I only make medical referrals.

* I don’t know any quacks and would not send my patient to one if I did.

Bottom Line:  These questions and variations have worked well for me. Fortunately, most of the doctors I’ve talked to have been very pragmatic about alternative medicine. And being open-minded and willing to discuss the topic is a good start. 

I don’t expect them to know all the answers – whether we’re talking alternative medicine or conventional medicine – but as long as they’re willing to discuss options and research what they don’t know, I think we will be able to work together as partners to find the treatment that works best for this patient.

Comments are very welcome… let us know if you would use different questions or add new ones to this list.

© 2012, All rights reserved


(Images courtesy of Microsoft Office Clip Art)







One Comment

  1. Fatal error: Uncaught Error: Call to undefined function ereg() in /home/peggyjno/public_html/ Stack trace: #0 /home/peggyjno/public_html/ sandbox_commenter_link() #1 /home/peggyjno/public_html/ sandbox_comments(Object(WP_Comment), Array, 1) #2 /home/peggyjno/public_html/ Walker_Comment->start_el('', Object(WP_Comment), 1, Array) #3 /home/peggyjno/public_html/ Walker->display_element(Object(WP_Comment), Array, '5', 0, Array, '') #4 /home/peggyjno/public_html/ Walker_Comment->display_element(Object(WP_Comment), Array, '5', 0, Array, '') #5 /home/peggyjno/public_html/ Walker->paged_walk(Array, '5', 0, 0, Array) #6 /home/peggyjno/p in /home/peggyjno/public_html/ on line 304