Home > Personal Finance > 15 Things You Should Know About Alternative Doctors

Comments 0 Comments

The term “alternative medicine” is very broad, encompassing a range of practices, products, and passions. And, therein lies the problem.

  • Some have been in use for centuries — yoga, acupuncture, meditation, herbal remedies — while others involve concepts and technology only recently developed.
  • National and international laws regarding what qualifies as “healthcare” and who is qualified to practice are highly splintered and inconsistent.
  • Similarly, regulations surrounding the safety and efficacy of alternative products and procedures are often non-existent or unenforceable.

Regrettably, despite the real promise many forms of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) has shown, the confusion and lack of oversight in this area has made it ripe for charlatans, quacks, and criminals willing to prey on desperate patients so they can line their own pockets.

Certainly, that doesn’t describe all practitioners of CAM. But, with medical bills comprising the most common cause of bankruptcies and major credit problems, it’s vital for patients to learn how to tell when they need to be concerned. The following facts and tips will help you make smart choices when it comes to working with alternative doctors.

Americans using CAM are not alone.

Roughly ⅓ of Americans have indicated they used some form of alternative medicine regularly. The number rises to just over 40 percent for those who have ever tried something that qualifies as CAM.

CAM is more prevalent in other countries.

In Canada, that number is closer to 80 percent. In Japan, CAM and mainstream medicine co-exist comfortably, and hundreds of traditional herbal remedies are available under the national health insurance system.

The U.S. medical community is coming around to CAM.

In the U.S., mainstream medical professionals have become increasingly accepting of alternative treatment options. A recent Harvard study found that physicians had pointed more than 6 million Americans to a mind-body remedy in the previous year.

Prestigious medical centers are beginning to endorse CAM.

The American Hospital Association says more than a third of the nation’s hospitals offer integrative medicine.

Medical schools are also beginning to get onboard.

Highlighting the future of these trends, nearly three fourths of medical schools in the United States offer elective courses in natural and alternative medicine or include it in courses required for graduation.

Regulations around CAM have not caught up to traditional medicine.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrated Health (NIH) highlights some important points regarding qualifications, certifications, and licensing for CAM practitioners. There is no standardized, national system for credentialing alternative doctors or other practitioners of alternative medicine. It is left up to state and local governments to decide what credentials practitioners must have to work in their jurisdiction.

Lack of regulation creates some confusion for practitioners and patients.

As a result, the credentials and regulations governing complementary health practitioners vary tremendously from place to place and from discipline to discipline.

Chiropractors must be accredited.

“In all 50 states and the District of Columbia, chiropractors must be an accredited Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) and must pass special state exams, exams administered by the NBCE, or both.”

Naturopathic physicians are less prevalent.

“Only 17 states and the District of Columbia license naturopathic physicians. In general, licensure requires graduating from an accredited 4-year naturopathic school and passing a postdoctoral board examination.”

Massage therapists are usually regulated.

Most states regulate massage therapists by requiring a license, registration, or certification. However training standards and requirements for massage therapists vary greatly by state and locality, but most states that regulate massage therapists require a minimum of 500 hours of training.”

In healthcare, confusion can be dangerous.

The NIH concludes with this sobering summary: “Regulations, licenses, and certificates do not guarantee safe, effective treatment from any provider—conventional or complementary… Being licensed or certified is not a guarantee of being qualified.”

CAM has long been a magnet for criminals and charlatans.

It’s important to recognize health care fraud, scams and quackery for what they are. You will never find a reputable medical doctor with nothing but an unbiased desire to help people spending millions to hawk supplements, books, breathing techniques, magnets, or any other products and processes via TV, mail order, or the Internet. That’s simply not how regulated, scientifically-backed medicine is practiced.

If you are considering visiting a CAM provider, there are some smart steps you should take to confirm they are legitimate healthcare professionals who are offering a quality service.

Step One:

First, take the same care in choosing a CAM provider as you would any other medical professional, from your family doctor to your brain surgeon.

Step Two:

Second, seek out recommendations from your trusted medical team. Your doctor or local hospital likely know who in the area has proven themselves to be safe and effective, and who has not.

Step Three:

Third, find out as much as you can about each provider you’re considering. Due diligence can go a long way in turning up facts or anecdotes that may be concerning, or in boosting your confidence.

Step Four:

Fourth, when you first meet with the provider, confirm they are willing to cooperate fully with the rest of your established medical team. If you choose to work with them, make sure your conventional providers know that as well. Open communication and mutual respect are key to safe, effective, coordinated care.

Step Five:

Fifth, explain all of your existing medical conditions, history, and any relevant family history, as well as which treatments you have tried in the past and any care you are receiving now. If what they’re offering is a one-size-fits-all solution to any and every condition, it’s not going to work. If they’ve never worked with anyone with the conditions you present, they may not be the right provider for you.

Step Six:

Finally, understand that health insurance may not cover any or all of the cost of treatment through an alternative doctor. While this is changing (for example, chiropractic care is considered CAM, but is now covered to some extent by most medical plans) it becomes a very important factor in your decision. After all, even alternative medicine can cost a lot.

If you’re concerned about your credit, you can check your three credit reports for free once a year. To track your credit more regularly, Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card is an easy-to-understand breakdown of your credit report information that uses letter grades—plus you get two free credit scores updated every 14 days.

You can also carry on the conversation on our social media platforms. Like and follow us on Facebook and leave us a tweet on Twitter.

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other sponsored content on Credit.com are Partners with Credit.com. Credit.com receives compensation if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any financial products or cards offered.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.



Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team