The Changing Face Of Medicare – How It Effects You!
A couple of weeks ago The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) released a new directive to GP’s recommending that they say no to any requests from Naturopaths for further testing! This directive, has clearly resulted from a desire/need to cut government costs, and from this perspective, I guess, understandable, but how will this impact you as a keen advocate in identifying and resolving your health issues? Could the RACGP, have put a little more thought, consideration, and respect with the delivery of their, directive?
Lets explore some issues around this, how it will effect you and what your options are.
The style of care differs greatly between GP’s and Naturopaths and should not be viewed as one modality competing with the other! Over my years of practicing I have built wonderful relationships with GP’s and our collaboration of care has resulted in the best outcomes for clients, with each practitioner stepping in to offer their specific expertise at the right time. I believe integrative care is in your best interest and is the way of the future for medicine 🙂
Comparing Modalities – GP’s And Naturopaths
Naturopath’s spend considerable time with a client on initial presentation (1 to 2 hours), due to the nature of treatment, it is critical to obtain a proper understanding of diet, sleep, life habits, health history, family health history and peruse past pathology results to determine the best way forward. Naturopathic philosophy insists on not only resolving current health issues, but preventing future ones, by assessing health risks. Treatment is very long reaching and considers, changing one or more of the following: diet, sleep habits, exercise habits, hydration habits, sun exposure habits, chemical exposure, EMF exposure, work/life balance, considers emotional status and supporting genetic issues.
GP’s generally (please note this does not apply for all GP’s but the majority), will see a client for 5 to 15 minutes max, they usually only obtain the information about the symptom that requires resolution, and will either prescribe a pharmaceutical drug on the spot or run some basic bloods/swabs/urinalysis before making that decision. Their specialty in my opinion is in diagnosing and with life threatening issues which require immediate strong (pharmaceuticals) medicines to save lives. Treatment is mostly limited to pharmaceutical drugs or referrals are made to specialists for further diagnosis, whose treatment will also generally be limited to drug treatments.
So it is important to understand that the two modalities are treating from a different perspective and have different philosophies around health, nevertheless respecting each others differences and understanding the strengths and limitations for both parties works best.
Why Do Naturopaths Ask For More Detailed Investigations Than GP’s?
Traditional naturopathy used to rely on a very thorough case history taking, and from that, assessments would be made to determine, if it was likely that there was some sort of deficiency, such as zinc, magnesium, B12 etc, etc and then dietary or supplemental advise would be given to improve the necessary nutrient status. BUT TIMES ARE A CHANGING! We have more at our disposal now, we can use gold standard pathology tests to check these levels. I have spent 8 years being trained by a biochemist and reviewing the research and can read pathology results within context, understand their strength and limitations and make far more targeted treatment strategies. Most GP’s have not been trained in this style of nutritional assessment, and evaluation and do not need to be, as their treatment strategy is to use pharmaceutical drugs to treat.
Let me give you a couple of examples to better explain what I mean:
If you have been diagnosed with a thyroid issue, lets say you have an elevated TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), which suggests that your thyroid is not producing enough thyroid hormones. A GP would general prescribe thyroid medication (such as thyroxine), then every three months checks of your thyroid hormones (T3,T4) and TSH would be made until the TSH looks stable, from there you may have a yearly check. From the naturopathic perspective, it is important to know why the TSH is elevated, is it because of an iodine deficiency (common cause, impossible to make thyroid hormones without the raw material – which is iodine!), is it because of a selenium deficiency (needed to converted T4 to T3), are other cofactors available, such as zinc and iron? How far reaching is the problem, are there thyroid autoantibodies, these can be tested. So this issue alone requires 8 or 9 pathology tests. This will then allow accuracy in treatment, all of which is scientifically backed, who wouldn’t prefer to resolve a nutritional deficiency rather than be dependant on a drug possibly forever?
If you are continually getting sick, from a naturopathic perspective we consider all the factors which effect your immune system, these include zinc, amino acids, beneficial bacteria and vitamin D, so we want to test these to see that they are at the levels they need to be at, this allows for very targeted treatment. From a medical perspective you will be given an antibiotic or antiviral each time you are unwell. Naturopathicaly, cause must be established, other evaluations will be considered too, such as, do you get enough sleep, are your bowels working efficiently for waste clearance etc etc.
Like it or not we have no choice but to accept that subsidy for pathology testing has been cut – rightly or wrongly! Nutritional testing is strongly supported by the evidence and this evidence is growing at a phenomenal rate, this makes it nearly impossible to ignore for any ethical health care practitioner. I would like to reassure you that some of the pathology labs are working very closely with us, to provide excellent out of pocket rates (and some are not! I will be promoting and supporting those labs who are working to support you). For my clients these discount rates will be passed on to you to help ease the burden and continue to make thorough pathology testing affordable.