Oxford Health Plans > Providers' Resources > Talking to Your Doctor About Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Talking to Your Doctor About Complementary and Alternative Medicine

David Eisenberg, MD, of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical School at Harvard University, is leading the effort to foster better relations between medical doctors and their patients who may be considering or are already using some form of alternative therapy. He has developed the following guidelines to help patients and physicians communicate about alternative medicine and discuss how or whether to integrate alternative and conventional therapies.
  • Always keep your doctor informed of any alternative therapies you're considering. Include any "non-medical" treatment you're receiving, such as massage or chiropractic therapies, and explain why you've chosen the alternative therapy.
  • Listen to your doctor's reaction, even if it's not what you want to hear. A physician may have concerns because something in your medical history makes an alternative therapy risky for you.
  • If you're unhappy with the level of communication between you and your doctor regarding alternative medicine, you may want to consider changing doctors. If your Oxford plan requires you to select a primary care physician (PCP), you can simply change your PCP by calling Customer Service at 800-444-6222 or completing a form online.
  • Inform your doctor if you plan to pursue an alternative medicine treatment against his or her advice. It's important that your decision be noted in your chart.
  • Once your doctor agrees to work with you, ask whether he or she has any questions for your alternative provider.
  • Be sure to let your doctor know if the alternative provider is advising you to do something that directly conflicts with his or her medical recommendation.
  • Before you begin treatment, review the professional credentials of the alternative medicine provider you choose. Ask questions about the specific services you will be receiving, as well as your provider's qualifications to offer such services.
  • Remember that your doctor may not have enough time to read up on every kind of alternative treatment that's out there. The responsibility of researching treatment will most likely rest with you.

    The following are good resources to start with:

    • The Office of Alternative Medicine (OAM) of the National Institutes of Health offers a set of guidelines on how to do research using MEDLINE, a well-known scientific database, as well as other resources. Visit the OAM's web site at http://nccam.nih.gov/.
    • The FDA has some general information about dietary supplements on its web site, including warnings against using products that have caused harm. Look for updates at http://vm.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/supplmnt.html.
Reprinted with permission, Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter. Telephone: 800-274-7581.
    Additional resources recommended by Oxford's CAM Program:

    • The Rosenthal Center for Complementary Alternative Medicine is devoted specifically to research, education and training in complementary and alternative medicine and fosters the development of a more comprehensive and inclusive medical system. Visit http://www.rosenthal.hs.columbia.edu/ to learn more.
    • Alternative Health News OnlineTM provides access to health news sites that report primarily on wellness and natural approaches to staying healthy. Look for daily and weekly updates at http://www.altmedicine.com/