Healthcare in the western world is experiencing a major shift in how people want to be treated and the treatments they choose to undertake. Seemingly patients are increasingly open to the idea of pursuing alternative medicine rather than the medical practises of established medicine. But what is behind this shift? Why are patients choosing alternative medicine over the regular variety and what implications will this have on not only the medical profession but also society more generally?
One of the most touted reasons for the increased use of alternative medicine is the increased cost of regular treatments. While in this country we have a nationalised healthcare system, in many countries around the world medical expenses are a major concern. This is why all over the western world; those who have to pay for medical treatment are choosing the alternative route instead of the conventional one.
The reason for this increase in cost is not due to medical staff receiving more money but instead a rise in the costs of supplies and operation. That said, the end result is the same, patients have to pay more for their treatments and understandably utilising alternative forms of treatment that prove to cheaper has become popular, especially when used over a long period of time.
Even countries that use a system of personal insurance to pay for medicine and treatments are experiencing this shift towards alternative medicine. The shift is a result of the fact that for minor afflictions and problems many policies are not paying out; as the patient then has to pay for their drugs, seeking alternative and cheaper forms of treatment is wholly understandable. As long as insurers refuse to pick up the tabs for patient's bills, alternative practitioners will experience the financial benefits as people head to them in droves.
It may even reach the point where alternative medicine becomes the predominant form of treatment. Courses of naturopathy, hypnotherapy, yoga and chiropractic treatment are becoming evermore popular and challenging drugs and surgery as the primary means of treatment for a number of disorders. Doctors are already experiencing a downturn in patient numbers as they head instead to the alternative practitioners.
While this does not in itself worry doctors who are under high levels of stress already, one consequence is patients not telling their doctors of the treatments they have had for fear of disapproval. Understandably doctors want the entire picture of a patient's past treatments, alternative or regular to work out a suitable course of action.
As peoples' faith in western medicine clearly diminishes, alternative medicines are becoming popular for the relief they offer. This has worried doctors somewhat due to the fact that without a professional medical opinion it is easy to diagnose symptoms incorrectly resulting in patients undergoing treatments they do not need that could in fact harm their chances of recovery. The era of self diagnosis seems to be upon us, the ramifications of this have not yet been ascertained but if the fears of doctors are realised, a great deal of subsequent health problems may arise in the future.
The internet has played its own part in this rise of alternative medicine. As an information resource it is unrivalled but the questions remain over the quality of said information. If people continue to self-diagnose, the health implications could be great. Overall however if you are looking into using alternative medicine it is advisable to take a mixed approach. The knowledge of your doctor should not be ignored and is a far greater resource than the internet. By using this advice and finding a practitioner who is both knowledgeable and trustworthy is key to finding a healthy balance between existing treatments and alternative therapies.
Medical expert Thomas Pretty looks into the reasons behind the increased use of alternative medicine over regular treatments.