One of frustrating things about being a GP in Australia is dealing with the general public's love affair for alternative medicine. Don’t get me wrong, I think it's great when our patients take a proactive interest in their health and wellbeing, it's just that I wish they aligned their treatments with medical evidence, rather than with the stars.
Let me give you some examples. I saw a patient with a nasty skin infection. As I was signing the script for flucloxacillin she said, “I’ll just check with my naturopath first if she thinks it’s okay for me to take this.”
I wish they aligned their treatments with medical evidence, rather than with the stars
What?! Of course she won’t think it's okay. Naturopaths think antibiotics are the kryptonite of our modern world. But how is she going to treat your infection? Waving crystals and chanting??
My colleague has an iridologist in his local town who caused enormous anxiety in a few patients. She gazes into their eyes then tells them to go and see their GP urgently as they have breast lumps or skin cancer. The only thing that she was good for was sending all the ladies down for the their ‘urgent’ pap smears.
Another common scenario, which makes our GP blood boil, is your patient coming in with a shopping list of blood tests that their naturopath wants you to do. They bring weird and crazy orders like ‘reverse T3,’ but sadly often the patients go away disappointed. Most GPs will be happy to do relevant tests for specialists when clinically indicated, but not inappropriate, blanket blood tests under our name, just because a quack wants it.
One final jab in the ribs is that naturopaths and homeopaths often charge more per hour than GPs do! Perhaps that’s where we as a profession need to value our worth and charge more. I can see though that there is a place for the alternative health professionals (when they are not doing harm advocating useless treatments). On some level they promote healthy living and with 1 hour consultations they must be good, empathic listeners. ●
This article first appeared in The Sessional GP magazine June 2015.