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Alternative Medicine: Separating the Wheat From the Chaff

Alternative Medicine: Separating the Wheat From the Chaff

Times change; the pendulum swings. Once, not so many years ago,
mainstream health providers and insurers viewed all alternative
and complementary practitioners as quacks.

In less than 10 years, the pendulum reversed direction. Today's
alternative and complementary practitioners not only treat patients
insured by leading managed care organizations, but also serve
as gatekeepers, directing patients to specialists, or not, according
to their understanding of clinical status.

The growing popularity of alternative and complementary practitioners
is based, at least in part, on their tendency to spend more time
with patients and, typically, to reflect a sense of caring. Patients
may find this missing in mainstream medicine, particularly in
specialty practices such as oncology.

Patients see alternative practitioners as being more like the
family doctor of 50 years ago, the physician who knew and cared
about people in a pre-high tech, prespecialization era. The sense
that the practitioner cares is often more important to patients
than the practitioner's technical skills or equipment.

We may view this as an unsound basis on which to make health care
decisions. But the actions of patients in large numbers indicate
that they disagree.

The perceived differences between types of practitioners appear
sufficient to motivate patient decisions and help explain the
busy family practice office of naturopaths, chiropractors, and
other non-MD therapists who offer alternative, first-line health

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