One of the things we often hear from proponents of alternative medicine is that they like alternative practitioners because of their holistic approach – and some of the bloggers here have previously countered by saying that medical practitioners do the same. For example, I feel that my GP takes a holistic approach to my health – he is happy to discuss a range of issues with me, including diet, exercise, side effects of medications and ways to minimise my need for medication. Over the years, for example, he has helped me manage my asthma and reduce the amount of medication I need.
Recently, however, I was in Australia and had to seek medical attention twice for a relatively minor complaint, and both times I found the attention I received was cold and rushed. Both physicians focused on the symptoms, asked very few holistic questions and didn’t seem much interested when I volunteered additional information which I thought might help. The solution in both cases was a prescription with very little additional advice or suggestions.
With the medical practice I visited I don’t think the problem lies fully with the doctors – the system is set up to encourage doctors to process patients as fast as possible. Signs around the practice explained how doctors were only allowed to deal with one medical condition at a time – if you had more to talk about you needed to extend your session (and pay more). Hardly a good way to facilitate a holistic approach.
The medical practice also required that I pay before seeing the doctor- probably understandable as I was a walk in patient. However, I have since discovered that my partner has to do the same when he visits his regular doctor here in New Zealand. Hardly a way (in my opinion) to establish a good working relationship with your doctor. Also he does not get to see the same doctor each time, something which doesn’t really appeal to me.
While I am sure there are many great holistic thinking doctors in both New Zealand and Australia, I can’t help but think that it is doctors and medical practices like the one I described above help push people towards alternative practitioners – they may not have treatments that work, but they do make the patient feel listened to and like a whole person – not just a mobile set of symptoms.