April 17, 2013
Does Your Doctor Care If You CAM?
Maybe your doctor will not care if you are using complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), but you should. Not informing your doctor can cause health threatening and even life threatening situations if you keep this a secret. There are too many cases of patients saying that these medications are natural and therefore my doctor has no need to know, and they end up in the hospital or dead. Family members then are left to wonder what happened. Of course, they will blame the doctor, but this is when an autopsy can uncover the real cause.
If patients and doctors both used communication, most of these problems could be avoided and everyone could be in a better state of health. Many times doctors will just sarcastically dismiss CAM or tell the patient not to be taking vitamins, herbal medications, or homeopathic products. It is the wise doctor that will take the name of the medication and look them up and maybe learn something, but most doctors are against CAM because they were not taught about it in medical school and therefore it holds no value.
I am surprised by this doctor actually blogging about her experience, but this must be an above average (and I mean way above the norm) doctor. Claire McCarthy, MD is a primary care physician and the medical director of Boston Children’s Hospital’s Martha Eliot Health Center.
She states that in a study, researchers in Canada found that 64.5 percent of children were using some form of CAM, but more than a third did not tell their doctor. She also says that in the general population about 75 percent of patients using CAM don't make this known to their doctors. She cites three reasons for this secrecy – patients are afraid their doctors won't be happy; patients don't think their doctor needs to know, and the doctor did not ask.
I agree with her assessment that safety should always be first and foremost. Doctors will not know whether they are being safe in prescribing a medication without knowing everything the patient is taking. Medications can have interactions and not always good interactions. Therefore, it is imperative that patients communicate all medications and CAM being taken. Not all CAM physicians are cautious when giving out herbal and homeopathic medicines and can cause adverse drug interactions unintentionally.
Dr. McCarthy states, “We doctors have a strong (and understandable) tendency to think within our own traditional medicine worlds. But, there is a much bigger world than traditional medicine when it comes to making patients feel and get better. And sometimes it’s patients who need to teach doctors.” This is a doctor that has her patient’s safety where it should be – first.
In her blog, she even lists the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) so that people can explore the site. She blogs here and here and is interesting to read for parents with small children.