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General Health Articles

How to Choose a Doctor

The establishment of a relationship between you as a patient and your doctor as a healer is of primary importance for your health and wellbeing. You need to have confidence in your doctor, and, at the same token, he or she needs to listen to your concerns and guide you in your quest for better health. A primary care physician will not only offer immediate medical service but will also help you find a specialist if and when one is needed.

When seeking a doctor, use the following information to see if your prospective doctor meets your needs. It may take a few visits to determine if the doctor is right for you, and don’t be afraid to change if you don’t have good vibes. Your health is your most valuable asset and you need to be part of the health care process, not just be a patient.

• Communication: make sure your doctor listens to you fully and answers your questions; also make sure enough time is spent with you.

• Consider affiliations: a doctor affiliated with a good hospital can open doors to more specialists.

• Personal approach: everyone is different, and you should feel comfortable communicating with your doctor.

• Insurance coverage: make sure that your prospective doctor's services will be covered by your plan.

• Certification: make sure that the person you're pacing so much trust in has earned that right. What degrees does he/she have and is the doctor board certified?

• Experience: this requires a balance between an older doctor, who has gained knowledge through time in practice, and a younger one, who might be more aware of and familiar with the latest advances.

• Accessibility: make sure that your doctor is easy to reach, and that there are back-up physicians who can provide service or advice if your doctor is unavailable.

• If you think you need to go right to a specialist because of a known condition, look in the Directory of American Medical Specialists, which your local or regional library should have.

Besides the conventional Western medicine doctors there is a wide variety of other medical disciplines that may be a better match for your medical care. Listed below are some of the most popular ones, but, depending on your medical needs, there are many, many unique specialties that may work for you. Check our section, What is Alternative Medicine?, that will eventually have over 90 modalities listed with an overview of each.

ALTERNATIVES

Always keep alternatives in mind. There are other, non-Western forms of healing that can offer solutions, especially when all known possible traditional cures haven't worked. Many people find different approaches work better for them and begin with alternative medicine. Most are far less invasive, have fewer side effects, and are often less expensive. All involve a different way of looking not only at disease but also the human body as a whole and how it works as a separate organism.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), views the human body as capable of fighting off disease by restoring the balances that control it. Herbal and mineral-based remedies play a large part in this, as well as diet. It has been practiced for about 5,000 years.

• Environment is an important factor in an individual's health.

• The body is itself a small version of the universe with interconnected systems working in balance in a healthy person.

• The body is governed by five major organs, grouped and given importance based on their functions: lungs, kidneys, liver, heart and stomach.

• Diagnosis is through observation, smell, touch, and sound; the pulse, taken from several different places, is highly important.

• Other interpretation methods include the Ying-Yang principle, and the Five Stages (wood, fire, earth, metal, water).

Ayurveda, the native medical system of India, was developed from about 2000 – 600 BC. The emphasis is on the examination of the overall person, not just a group of symptoms. It defines health as a balance between the elements that make up human life: air and ether, fire and water, water and earth (vata, pitta and kapha). Disruption in the body of the relationships between these will cause disease. The disruptions can be caused by internal or external problems, genetic predisposition, or both. It means that the elements cannot work in harmony with each other. Also, stress is recognized as an important factor in poor health, and yoga and other forms of meditation are part of some cures.

• Diagnosis in the Ayurvedic tradition is chiefly by observation and listening to the patient’s heart, lungs and digestive tract. The tongue is also important in this process. The analysis of color, texture and size is used to determine the problems with internal organs.

• Prevention is a major factor, and hygiene is a starting point.

• Cures involve vegetable-derived drugs, used both externally and taken internally.

• Minerals, in small amounts, are also used, including arsenic, gold, sulfur, and others.

Homeopathic Medicine is based on the principal that small amounts of substances that cause similar symptoms can be used to treat a disease with the same symptoms, or that 'like cures like'. It was developed by a German doctor, Samuel Hahnemann, around 200 years ago.

The theory involves:

• The Law of Similars, in which like cures like; thus the cure of a disease with something that produces similar symptoms

• The origin of disease as a deep disturbance of the vital force

• The use of herbal, animal, mineral and man-made substances in cures

• Disease as part of the wholeness of the body, not an invader

• Miasms, which are disturbances of the body's vital or life force

Naturopathic Medicine emphasizes non-invasive healing through nourishment with as little intervention as possible. Naturopathy is not available in all states, however; only in Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington,  Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

The practice involves:

• Support for the immune system is of prime importance, achieved through good nutrition, reduction of stress and adequate exercise, and is the body's key to healing.

• Finding and treating the cause of the problem, not the symptoms.

• Doing as little to the patient as possible, avoiding harm.

• Treating each case as unique to the individual patient.

• Emphasizing the importance of prevention.

• Emphasizing the importance of an educated patient, and providing that education.


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