Choosing the Alternate Route
If you’re looking for a doctor practicing alternative medicine, consider a naturopathic doctor, or N.D. An N.D. is trained in all forms of alternative medicine, including nutrition and herbal remedies. Look for one who is a member of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP). These doctors have all graduated from one of the four U.S. or Canadian colleges recognized by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education.
To find an N.D. In your area, you can check the AANP’s website. Or for a small fee, you can receive a national membership list and a brochure detailing naturopathic physicians and their services.
Currently, there are 20 states in addition to the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia that have registration or licensing laws for naturopathic doctors. Virginia and Florida license the practice of naturopathy under a grandfather clause. Selected states require that health insurance providers cover N.D. care, but the type of coverage varies. In states where N.D.’s are not licensed, anyone can claim to be a naturopathic doctor, so checking credentials and education is important.
Does your Doctor Have the Right Stuff?
Whether the doctor you’re considering is traditional or alternative, check their credentials and other more subjective aspects to of their practice. Call the doctor’s office for this information. It is a good way to find out if the staff is consumer-friendly and willing to answer your questions. Here are some of the questions you should ask.
1. Is the doctor accepting new patients?
2. Is the doctor board-certified? Board certification means that the doctor has taken extra training and passed the examination given by a national board of professionals in that specialty field. Board certification is an important way by which doctors judge their colleagues’ credentials. Keep in mind that alternate physicians are not likely to be board-certified.
3. Does the doctor have consultations? How long are they? And how much do they cost?
4. At what hospitals does the doctor have privileges to admit, treat, or operate on their patients? Privileges are rights granted to a doctor by a hospital review board, depending on the hospital’s need for doctors and on a doctor’s qualifications.
5. Does the doctor accept phone calls from patients? At what hours? Do they offer an email portal that you can use to communicate about medical concerns or issues? The doctor’s staff can frequently answer questions over the phone, but you should have direct access to the doctor if you feel it’s necessary.
6. Does your doctor have any evening or weekend hours?
7. How far in advance is the doctor booked for routine appointments? How quickly can you get in for an emergency?
8. Does the doctor work in a group? How many doctors are in the group? Are they all board-certified? Who backs up the doctor when they’re on vacation?
9. Does your doctor work in conjunction with alternative practitioners or make referrals to them?
Reward good doctors with a positive recommendation. Help other soon-to-be patients find a good doctor by promoting the ones who deserve it.
Valerie lives in New York. As a health advocate, she shares tips and steps on maximizing nutrition, weight, and fitness goals to help others embrace a healthier lifestyle. She blogs at Halfmile Fitness.