Did you know...there are tips to choose a complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practitioner? CAM Checklist

Editor June 14th, 2011

If you are thinking about finding a specialist in Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), here are a few tips to help you make the best choice for you:

If you are thinking about finding a specialist in Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), here are a few tips to help you make the best choice for you:

1. Talk with your doctor.

Depending on the relationship you have with your biomedical doctor, it may be worthwhile to ask them if they can recommend a CAM practitioner. Based on your medical history and your treatment, your doctor might give you an idea of which therapies might work best for you and where to go for treatment.

2. Research your condition.

The more familiar you are with your condition, the more likely you will be able to find the right CAM practitioner. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why do I want to find a CAM practitioner?

The reasons can vary from wanting to try something new to feeling more comfortable with alternative treatments.

  • What kind of CAM treatment am I looking for?

There are many different types of treatment options. Acupuncture, herbal remedies, massage therapy and even yoga are considered CAM.

  • Has the CAM treatment been proven to be helpful for my condition?

You can go online to find research studies or more information about the CAM treatments whether they have been helpful for people with your condition. You could also ask anyone you know who has used CAM about their experiences. Your doctor may also provide some insight.

  • Does my health insurance cover CAM practitioners?

Sometimes insurance companies believe that certain CAM treatments are helpful to patients with particular health issues. If you have private medical insurance, certain CAM therapies may be covered on your plan. For example, acupuncture, biofeedback and chiropractic are some CAM treatments that may be covered. It is important to check with your carrier about your needs.

  • If you have Medicaid: CAM treatments are not covered unless your biomedical doctor performs CAM services along with other medically necessary care during your office visit.
  • If you have Medicare: Services such as nutritionists for a medical condition like diabetes may be covered. Chiropractic is also covered in some cases. Supplements, vitamins and other alternative therapies are not covered.
  • If you are uninsured: You will have to pay the out-of-pocket expenses for the services you receive.

3. Look for practitioner credentials or their training.

Many CAM practitioners receive certification or receive extensive training in their area of expertise to show that they have experience in their field. This experience can come from education at a medical school, a CAM professional school, a professional organization or through an apprenticeship. For more information on practitioner expertise, see the links below:

  • Homeopaths- American Institute of Homeopathy
  • Osteopaths - American Osteopathic Association
  • Acupuncturists - National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine  or American Academy of Medical Acupuncture
  • Nutritionists - American Dietetic Association

Note: Not all CAM practitioners have credentials, in which case, it is a good idea to ask about their experience.

4. Beware of claims that are too good to be true.

If a product claims to cure diseases like cancer or AIDS, research websites, books and other products that can give ‘proof' of the results. If it seems too good to be true, trust your gut.

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