Readers, Health Enthusiasts, Friends, and Colleagues,
In this second episode of “Married to a Doctor”, I wanted to take a moment to just say: “ND’s do NOT…I repeat…do NOT, have a cure for Cancer.” On the front page of the Seattle Times today was this article, about how this Bothell ND claimed to have developed a “Cancer Vaccine” (let’s not even mention the fact that Cancer isn’t a virus…so it can’t really have a vaccine). The good news is he has lost his license, and has been exposed for the misinforming fraud he is. The bad news is the headline just calls him “Bothell Naturopath” and thereby implicates the entire Naturopathic Community as just as fraudulent as him.
Look people: there are quacks (sometimes, very charismatic, popular quacks) in every profession. There are horrible surgeons out there, but you don’t hear people saying that all
surgeons are bad. There are bad teachers out there (trust me, in my job I’ve seen a number of them)…but no one suggests that all teachers are incompetent. There are MDs riddled with malpractice, but no one condems the entire MD community. However, whenever I read about an individual Naturopath who does something stupid (and I’m no doctor so correct me if i’m wrong here, but claiming to be able to cure cancer with no real evidence is stupid…no other word for it), the first reaction seems to be do demonize the entire profession. It’s a knee-jerk reaction to something that most of us don’t really understand.
While I think this guy is certainly fraudulent, and I’m glad his license has been suspended, the reality is that most licensed ND’s (Naturopathic Physicians, as opposed to the more generic label of “naturopath”) are well-trained doctors who are in no way misleading their patients, and in many cases helping them to live longer, happier, healthier lives.
However, there are a couple of “types” of ND’s to beware of. I’m painting in broad strokes here, but I see three categories of ND’s to beware of. I’ll also be describing how we at Alpine Integrated Medicine do things, as a counterpoint.
Here are three “types of ND’s” to watch out for:
1. The Misinformers: Like the “cancer vaccine” guy, there are a few ND’s out there who make wildly unscientific claims, and essentially sell “snake oil” to their unsuspecting clients. When your ND starts making wild claims like they can cure cancer or AIDS with a supplement, you should start looking elsewhere. At AIM, we will not lead you on with false hope. There are a lot of ways that Natural Medicine can lead to increased health outcomes, but it isn’t a panacea, and it isn’t magic.
2. The Supplement Peddlers: Most ND’s sell high quality supplements, which when used properly can have great health benefits. However, if you find your ND trying to load you down with 10-20 products as you leave their office, you should be skeptical. There are definitely those ND’s who try to increase their profit by essentially throwing “everything but the kitchen sink” at their patients. People trust their doctor to have their best interest at heart, and the folks who just use their medical degree to essentially be salesmen are doing a huge disservice to our entire profession. (also, it’s not a good long term business model, because once people find out what you are doing, they leave and never see you again.) At AIM, we favor a more low impact approach. Before we recommend a supplement, we will often do a blood test to provide us with scientific data about the patient. When we recommend a supplement, we also tend to want to see if it has an impact before just giving a patient more and different supplements. A quick logical exercise will prove this approach is reasonable. Let’s say you come in for a headache. You are given one product, and after a week, you notice your headaches have lessened. It becomes logical to then point to that supplement as part of the solution. If however, you come in for that same headache, and you are given 10 supplements, then how do you know which are effective and which aren’t. Say your headaches improve in a week or two…how can we draw any causal conclusions when there is essentially no way to tell which supplements were effective, and which were not. If you leave your ND and have spent several hundred dollars on a multitude of products after each visit, or after only one visit, that is a red flag that you are being taken advantage of. Don’t be fooled!
3. The Cash-Pay Over Chargers: This is, sadly, a somewhat frequent category, and does a great disservice to all ND’s out there trying to run a business and actually help people be healthy. In short, this group of docs typically do not take any insurance, and their cash prices are extremely high. This is somewhat of a “caveat emptor” issue, in that the patient needs to beware of when the cost of their care is unreasonable. At AIM, all of our prices are based on standards for billing as reflected by insurance companies. For example, a single office visit, when billed to insurance, is charged at anywhere from $105 to just over $200, depending on the nature of the visit, with most office visits to ND’s being billed at either $105 or $150. Now, insurances pay a reduced rate to providers, so for that $150 bill, your doctor only sees around $110. Thus, our cash prices reflect those costs. You won’t pay $200 for an office visit in cash with us, because our visit cash prices are comparable to what insurance pays us. If your ND is charging you over $200 for a single wellness visit or checkup, it may be time to swallow hard and find a new doc. (keep in mind, if your visit contained other procedures, or was particularly complex, prices may vary , but the numbers above are a good guideline.)
So that’s what to watch out for as you choose a doctor that’s right for you. I can’t tell you
how many patients come in to see Dr. Brooke or Dr. Shegeft, and have horror stories of being overcharged, or who have been buried in supplement cost.
Every ND’s dream is to bypass insurance companies and develop more of their practice as cash-pay, but in doing so, it is important to not get greedy, and to base your pricing on something, rather than just arbitrary cost. It’s also always better to under promise and over deliver…help people achieve reasonable health goals, and also know your limits. If you are looking for a magic health pill…you may need to look elsewhere. However, if you are ready to have a partner that can reasonably assist you with living a more healthy life, or you need help overcoming or managing an illness or disease…well, that’s what we’re here for.
Husband of a Doctor