Posted by: Chris Maloney | September 9, 2011

Alternative Healthcare Patients Use Fewer Healthcare Dollars

Pediatric polysomnography patient, Children's ...

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In a survey of Ontario patients of Naturopathic Doctors, almost half reported needing fewer prescription drugs.  While this is impressive, what struck me more was that almost a third reported fewer visits to the hospital as a result of their alternative care.

Prescriptions don’t necessarily consume large amounts of healthcare dollars, but hospital visits certainly do.  If you use the calculation from the survey that estimates two million Ontario residents are using Naturopathic care, that’s 600,000 fewer hospital visits if they avoid just one visit.  But in most chronic illnesses, multiple hospital visits are the norm, so the number is likely to be much higher.

Since patients are likely to spend out-of-pocket to see their Naturopathic Doctor, the healthcare system benefits directly from every patient transferred to alternative care.  I know in my practice I’ve prevented at least one surgery this year.  If I was paid by the insurance system a percentage of all the money I save it I could work only a couple of weeks a year.

Instead, typically my practice is viewed as competition to the conventional model.  This old-school, fee-for-service, control-your-turf model still permeates many medical programs.  The reality is that most doctors are now employees of hospitals that are scrambling to control costs.  Adding in alternative care to that model increases patient satisfaction while trading expensive procedures for low-cost, long-term lifestyle changes.

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