Strengthen doctor-patient relationships by talking wellness, not just sickness

Doctors can, and should, help patients sort through and integrate alternative therapies
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By Matt Kuhrt

While our media channels, social and otherwise, are oversaturated with "simple tricks" promising to improve our health through better habits, superfoods and the like, a Washington Post article suggests many people overlook one of the best sources of information available to help improve their overall health and wellness: their primary care physicians.

The gap in communication has to do with patients who seek out treatments that the medical establishment would term "complementary and alternate medicine," which includes products such as vitamins, herbs and other non-pharmaceutical nutritional supplements, as well as unconventional healing practices such as yoga, massage therapy or acupuncture.

The fact that many patients are motivated by forces outside their primary care practitioner's office to pursue better health through supplements, nutraceuticals, or other alternative means doesn't obviate the need to discuss such products with their doctors. "It's very easy to have drug interactions when those conversations aren't taking place," warns Darrin D'Agostino, chair of the department of internal medicine at the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth.

On the other hand, studies have shown practices that help patients manage stress and encourage good nutrition can have a positive effect on overall health, as FiercePracticeManagment has previously reported. D'Agostino advocates an "integrative medicine" approach that encourages patients to partner with their doctors in order to stay healthy, via both conventional and non-conventional means--as opposed to seeking out an office visit or a consultation only in response to an illness or other condition.

Shifts in the philosophy of primary care provision away from the traditional fee-for-service model have begun to push doctors to focus more on the overall health of patients. That change of focus has led to increased integration of complementary therapies and behavioral strategies among practices, creating a natural opening for treatments that once might have been considered outside of the physician's realm. 

To learn more:
- read the article

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