How to Best Handle Patients Considering Alternative Medicine

Updated on August 7, 2023

The interest in contemporary and alternative medicine (CAM) among patients has increased in the past decade. Some are interested in building the immune system and preventing long-term diseases, while others want to avoid invasive treatments and save on healthcare costs. Though it’s great that patients are more concerned with their well-being, some doctors feel it undermines their years of medical experience. 

While some of these treatment options are backed by research, others are relatively new, making it difficult for medical professionals to advise their patients effectively. Avoiding the discussion of CAM altogether causes a rift in the doctor-patient relationship and patients experimenting with their health and wellness, finding a solution is a must. 

Whether you’re for or against the use of contemporary and alternative therapies, there are strategies you can use to support your patients’ interests. Continue reading to learn more: 

Be An Effective Listener

When your patients bring up alternative treatment options, listen to their concerns. Brushing off their ideas pushes them away from you. Eventually, they’ll turn to other sources for information and advice, which may not be reputable, which could come with grave consequences. Keeping an open mind and allowing your patients to open up to you helps cultivate a stronger relationship. 

Ask Questions

After hearing what your patient has to say, ask questions so that you can make an informed decision on how to guide them going forward. If your patient has started using hemp or THC to ease their chronic pain, you’d want to know that they’re getting it from a reputable source, how much they’re using, and their experience thus far. 

The more information you have, the easier it is for you to continue treating them properly. Perhaps you can advise them to keep a symptom journal, reduce medication dosage, or refer them to an alternative medicine practitioner they can see for further assistance. 

Provide Advice

Don’t look at a patient’s interest in alternative therapies as them not wanting your opinion. If that were the case, they would have never opened up about their concerns. As a professional in medicine, they want your advice. Explain the scientific and medical research you know about the therapies they’re interested in trying. If necessary, provide them with printed materials or online resources they can turn to for further proof. 

Then, give your opinion on whether or not they should proceed without judging or belittling their ideas. If, after hearing what you have to say, your patient is still interested in trying a specific alternative approach, don’t shun them; instead, find a way to guide them along the way. Should things go wrong, you’ll want them to feel comfortable enough to come back to you for assistance. 

Monitor and Follow-Up

If your patient is adamant about trying CAM, it is ideal to come up with a way to keep track of their experience to ensure their health doesn’t worsen. You could recommend that your patient inform you of any treatments they’re considering in advance so you can add it to their medical records. You might also suggest that patients keep a symptom journal to monitor how they’re feeling while taking supplements or undergoing contemporary therapies. 

Ask them to write all the physical and emotional symptoms or side effects they’re experiencing. This way, you can both monitor whether the treatment is making them better or worse. Lastly, schedule follow-up appointments to review the journal and discuss questions on concerns and make adjustments to their treatment plans as needed. 

The interest in contemporary and alternative solutions won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. As people want to live longer, happier, and healthier lives, their interest in all-natural or less invasive solutions will increase. With that being said, medical professionals must find balance in using their years of education and experience and meeting their patients’ needs. Using the strategies listed above, you can keep patients happy while continuing to do your job effectively. 

The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.