These topics should be considered when selecting any
practitioner or therapy.
Generally, safety means that the benefits outweigh the
risks of a treatment or therapy. A safe product or practice is one that does no harm when
used under defined conditions and as intended.
Effectiveness is the likelihood of benefit from a practice,
treatment, or technology applied under typical conditions by the average practitioner for
the typical patient.
Many people find that specific information about an
alternative and complementary therapys safety and effectiveness may be less readily
available than information about conventional medical treatments. Research on these
therapies is ongoing, and continues to grow. Hopefully, HolisticOnLine will provide you a
great deal of information on the therapies you are considering. If you don't see here what
you are looking for, contact us.
Ask your health care practitioner, whether a physician or a
practitioner of complementary and alternative health care, about the safety and
effectiveness of the therapy or treatment proposed. It is very important that you tell
your practitioner about any alternative or conventional treatments or therapies you may
already be receiving, as this information may be used to consider the safety and
effectiveness of the entire treatment plan.
Be an informed health consumer and continue gathering
information even after a practitioner has been selected. Ask the practitioner about
specific new research that may support or not support the safety and effectiveness of the
treatment or therapy. Ask about the advantages and disadvantages, risks, side effects,
expected results, and length of treatment that you can expect.
Speak with people who have undergone the treatment,
preferably both those who were treated recently and those treated in the past. Optimally,
find people with the same health condition that you have and who have received the
Remember that patient testimonials used alone do not
adequately assess the safety and effectiveness of an alternative therapy, and should not
be the exclusive criteria for selecting a therapy. Controlled scientific trials usually
provide the best information about a therapys effectiveness and should be sought
Health consumers may want to take a close look into the
background, qualifications, and competence of any potential health care practitioner,
whether a physician or a practitioner of alternative and complementary health care.
First, contact a state or local regulatory agency with
authority over practitioners who practice the therapy or treatment you seek. The practice
of complementary and alternative medicine usually is not as regulated as the practice of
conventional medicine. Licensing, accreditation, and regulatory laws, however, are
increasingly being implemented.
Local and state medical boards, other health regulatory
boards or agencies, and consumer affairs departments provide information about a specific
practitioners license, education, and accreditation, and whether there are any
complaints lodged against the practitioner. Check to see if the practitioner is licensed
to deliver the services the practitioner says he or she delivers.
Most types of complementary and alternative practices have
national organizations of practitioners that are familiar with legislation, state
licensing, certification, or registration laws. Some organizations will direct medical
consumers to the appropriate regulatory agencies in their state. These organizations also
may provide referrals and information about specific practitioners. The organizations
usually do not function as regulatory authorities, but promote the services of their
Second, talk with those who have had experience with this
practitioner, both health practitioners and other patients. Find out about the confidence
and competence of the practitioner in question, and whether there have ever been any
complaints from patients.
Third, talk with the practitioner in person. Ask about the
practitioners education, additional training, licenses, and certifications, both
unconventional and conventional. Ask about the practitioners approach to treatment
and patients. Find out how open the practitioner is to communicating with patients about
technical aspects of methods, possible side effects, and potential problems.
Look for a practitioner who is easy to talk to: you should
feel comfortable asking questions. After you select a practitioner, the education process
and dialogue between you and your practitioner should become an ongoing process.
The quality of the service delivery refers to how the
treatment or therapy is given and under what conditions.
Visit the practitioners office, clinic, or hospital.
Ask the practitioner how many patients he or she typically sees in a day or week, and how
much time the practitioner spends with the patient. Look at the conditions of the office
Many issues surround quality of service delivery, and each
one individually does not provide conclusive and complete information. For example, are
the costs of the service excessive for what is delivered? Can the service be obtained only
in one place, requiring travel to that place? These issues may serve as warning signs of
The primary issue to consider is whether the service
delivery adheres to regulated standards for medical safety and care.
Costs for the Alternative Medicine
Costs are an important factor to consider as many
complementary and alternative treatments are not currently reimbursed by health insurance.
Many patients pay directly for these services. Ask your practitioner and your health
insurer which treatments or therapies are reimbursable.
Find out what several practitioners charge for the same
treatment to better assess the appropriateness of costs. Regulatory agencies and
professional associations also may provide cost information.
Most importantly, discuss all issues concerning treatments
and therapies with your health care provider, whether a physician or practitioner of
complementary and alternative medicine.
Competent health care management requires knowledge of both
conventional and alternative therapies for the practitioner to have a complete picture of
your treatment plan.
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