General practice referral to complementary health practitioners

It is well known that over half the public are using complementary health modalities and that most do not inform their family physicians for fear of disapproval.

The Association of Complementary Physicians of BC, an organization for physicians interested in complementary and integrative medicine, have been engaged in discussions with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC over the last year regarding this matter.

The College is concerned about the lack of communication between conventional and complementary physicians and the dangers that can ensue when one doctor does not know what the other is doing. There has developed a catch-22 situation in which the patient does not want his or her family physician to know about a complementary treatment for fear of negative judgment or even dismissal on the one hand, and the College recommendation that the complementary doctor advise the family doctor even if it is against the patient’s will.

One obvious solution is for doctors to become more open minded and informed about complementary modalities and not to pour scorn and doubt on areas in which they have had no training. There are many instances where we do not understand the rationale behind a particular modality of treatment, even in conventional medicine, but this does not preclude its use so long as it is safe and is not unduly expensive.

Open communication between conventional and complementary physicians leads to a win-win situation and enhancement of the therapeutic relationship between patient and doctor. There is often a synergy between the conventional and complementary treatment. Openly dismissing that which we do not understand is demeaning not only for our patients but for our profession as well. We must learn to cooperate and communicate with complementary practitioners as we move into an expanding world with many more health options.

—Stephen Faulkner, MB, ChB
Past President, Association of Complementary Physicians of BC
Duncan

Stephen Faulkner, MBChB. General practice referral to complementary health practitioners. BCMJ, Vol. 43, No. 3, April, 2001, Page(s) 122 - Letters.



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