Thoughts on the Current State of Medicine, Part 1: The Patient Who Cancelled Their First Visit
The other day we did a discovery phone call with a prospective new patient. This is a free 15-minute service we provide to enlighten people on how Naturopathic medicine can help them, how we like to practice, and ultimately to make sure we are a good fit for each other before you spend your time and money with us.
Everything about the phone call went great. The prospective new patient was inquiring about our services with the primary complaint of emphysema. He was extremely receptive to what we had to say and was really excited to begin care with us. Sometimes people like to sleep on the decision, or talk it over with their spouse first, but this man didn't even hesitate and scheduled his first visit before we hung up.
Two weeks later, about an hour and a half before his first visit he called to cancel. His reasoning was that he did not know how we could help him and didn't want to spend an hour and a half with us. This came as a bit of a shock to us considering both of these concerns were addressed during his initial discovery phone call. He proceeded to explain to us that he "did his research" and both Mayo and Cleveland Clinics both state on their websites that there is no cure for emphysema.
There are few things I want to address about this
It is rare that someone complains about how long our initial intakes are. The average visit with your medical doctor (MD) is about 8-15 minutes long. Think about the last time you went to your primary care physician with a new complaint. Did you feel that it was enough time to address your concerns, ask all your questions, have all those questions answered, and come up with a treatment plan that works for you? Or did your doctor listen to a few symptoms, write you a prescription, and leave before you could feel satisfied with the visit? This is the current state of medicine, and it is thanks to the insurance based model of healthcare.
We schedule first office visits for 1.5-2 hours for a reason. For starters, in order to treat the whole you, we need to get to know the whole you first. The reason for your visit is rarely an isolated incident, but rather something that began months or years earlier and we need to tease out the root cause of your issue in order to properly treat it. We want to know EVERYTHING that is going on. Nothing is irrelevant or unrelated here. The body does not work in isolated pieces, it works as a whole. We often don't know what the key to unlocking your dis-ease will be until we start digging. Every part of your body is connected; your brain and gut are as much connected as your hand is to your arm.
Almost every patient really appreciates how thorough we are in our intakes, how much time we spend with them, and how they get to leave having all of their questions answered. Not to mention they get a treatment plan that works for them and meets them where they are in life. 8-15 minutes doesn't give your doctor enough time to actually develop a relationship with you. Something we've found to be instrumental to the healing process.
What "No Cure" Really Means
We love a well informed patient. We get a lot of patients in our office who have tried the conventional model of medicine, have seen no results and/or developed side effects from their medication, and want to try something new. It comes a shock how little their doctor told them about their condition and their treatment plan. They are completely at the mercy of their doctor because their doctor has failed to educate them. So like anyone in this situation, this particular prospective new patient resorted to the internet.
He thankfully sought out trusted sources for more information: Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic. Both have websites with a great amount of information about most conditions out there. But unfortunately, he ran into a common trap. Chronic diseases are often labeled as incurable in conventional medicine. So if Mayo and Cleveland Clinics say that there is no cure for emphysema they must be right, right?
But what does "no cure" really mean? In conventional medicine "no cure" means that there are no current medications or procedures that can cure said condition. Because that's all there is right? Almost to no fault of their own, medical doctors don't have many tools in their tool belts. They have prescription medications, over the counter medications, and surgery. They simply were not trained on the alternatives.
According to mayoclinic.com, the treatments for emphysema include inhalers, antibiotics, rehab, weight management, supplemental oxygen, or surgery either to remove parts of the lung or transplant a healthy lung. No wonder there is "no cure" for emphysema because none of these treatment options address the root cause of the issue, don't address human biochemistry and physiology, and don't take anything about the individual patient into consideration.
Naturopathic doctors treat the whole person and focus on finding and treating the root cause of disease. We utilize a lot of different modalities and choose the most appropriate for that patient based on their current biochemistry, physiology, mental and emotional state, and structural well-being. Some of those include: nutritional and lifestyle modifications, nutritional supplementation, botanical medicine, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, naturopathic counseling, and chiropractic manipulation.
Sometimes disease has progressed too far and a cure per se is not possible, even through Naturopathic interventions. But that doesn't mean nothing can be done. We can still create the conditions for health to improve your condition, slow progression, or ease your symptoms.
Why There Is No Naturopathic Mayo Clinic Website
So this interaction with this prospective new patient got me thinking; why is there no naturopathic alternative to Mayo and Cleveland Clinic websites? Surely this would help a lot of people and may have even prevented this prospective new patient from cancelling his first visit. But there is a reason this resource doesn't exist.
It is easy for Mayo and Cleveland Clinics to outline treatment options freely online because these treatment options are not obtainable without a doctor's visit. Most of a Naturopathic doctor's treatment options are readily available to the public, albeit not in great forms. We aren't trying to hide anything from you, we want you to have as much medical knowledge as possible. Patient education is actually one of the principles of Naturopathic medicine. But we also want you to be safe. Even our safest treatment options can pose risk if misused. The biggest reason for us not advertising our treatment options is that we simply do not have treatment protocols. We do not believe in a "one size fits all" model to health. We see the same conditions all the time but we never duplicate a treatment plan. This is because we always treat the PATIENT and not the disease. Everyone is different and, therefore, require different treatment plans.
So it is just not safe nor possible to make a comparable Naturopathic website.
Why Naturopathic Medicine and Doctors Are Misunderstood
I kind of grew up thinking of doctors as divine. I never questioned them because they knew everything and were always looking out for my best interest. I know better now, but I know that doesn't apply to everyone else. Naturopathic doctors face an uphill battle challenging the status quo of conventional medicine. Don't get me wrong, every medical profession has their place, but we all need to know our place and stay in our own lanes. Medical doctors will save your life but they will never make you healthy. None of our therapies will revive your stopped heart or can stop an aneurysm. But no prescription will make you a healthier person. They are not designed to do that.
We are not better or worse than other medical professions, we are just different and I'm really thankful for that. We are not just a natural alternative to prescriptions or surgeries. We are a completely different medical distinction that looks human health a little bit differently. If true health, and preventative medicine are something you are interested, give Naturopathic medicine a try. And if you don't want to spend that much time with us, I'm sure we can work something out.
It seems like prior to the pandemic, the word "research" was designated to the use of researchers only. But now everyone is doing "research." I'm thrilled to see so many people taking interest in their health and treatment options now, but for the most part these people are not doing research. It's possible the word "research" is just being used with good intentions and for lack of a better word, but there is an important distinction to be made.
Paraphrased from Dr. Mackenzie Ott, a cardio-respiratory neurophysiologist, professor from my alma mater, real life scientist and researcher:
Research is done by doctors and scientists who, for the most part, have dedicated their lives to the field. It first requires a working knowledge in the field. Then it requires reading thousands of peer reviewed publications from scientific journals with relevant impact factors before you can even begin formulating your own experiment. A real researcher is scrutinized for every word and action they make, meticulously checked by other researchers in their field before they can put their name on their work and present it to the world. Perhaps an experiment requires reproducible, double blind, placebo controlled measures to ensure accuracy of results. Or maybe it requires authorization from a governing body. In most cases it takes years just to publish a single study.
Research is not 20 minutes on the internet or watching something off of a $7/month streaming service. For most that is a confirmation bias. Looking for something to confirm their preconceived beliefs. It is almost impossible not to have an opinion on something even if you don't know anything about it. But just because you found something that agrees with you does not make it true.
This isn't to insult or degrade anyone's thoughts or attempts to learn more. I applaud anyone trying to learn more, especially when it comes to medical knowledge, because your doctor doesn't always do the best job at educating, leaving you forced to fend for yourself. This is just a reminder that what can be found may not always be true. Real research can be hard for a lay person to understand and apply; and is not what is most likely to pop up with a google search. But real research is our best understanding of the truth at the time of publication.
If you ever need help finding or analyzing a research paper, please ask for help from your doctor. We're always happy to help.
So these are my thoughts on a rather unfortunate experience. I wish it were not as common as it is, but there are still misconceptions about Naturopathic medicine and medicine in general. There is so much we could have done to help this man and others like him who have been steered in the wrong direction.