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How to find a complementary medical provider

When the time comes to find a traditional doctor, many people find the process to be relatively easy. Some doctors may be recommended by a friend, while others opt for a physician that has been treating their families for years. Certain health management and insurance plans may dictate certain “in-plan” providers, searchable by a particular location and practice. Finding an alternative medical provider, or one who specializes in complementary medicine, may not be as simple.

Practitioners who provide complementary and alternative medicine, known as CAM, are those who specialize in chiropractics, naturopathy, acupuncture and herbal remedies. Millions of people now see CAM providers in addition to their standard physicians. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that at least 40 percent of adults and 12 percent of children have used a CAM provider.

Complementary and alternative medicine is made up of a diverse set of therapies and healing philosophies. While traditional doctors may treat illnesses, many CAM providers are employing techniques to prevent illnesses in the first place. Dissatisfaction with traditional medicine has led many people to seek the help of CAM providers. In fact, a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that the majority of alternative medicine users appear to be doing so largely because “they find these healthcare alternatives to be more congruent with their own values, beliefs and philosophical orientations toward health and life.”

Men and women can find a CAM provider is several ways.

• Start with your doctor or another health care provider, who may offer a referral, particularly if this doctor is in favor of traditional medicine working in conjunction with alternative therapies.

• Some regional medical centers and hospitals may have CAM practitioners on staff. You can seek information from such organizations by calling them directly or going online to see a listing of staff.

• There are a number of professional organizations for CAM providers. An online search may yield various organizations that offer regional referrals.

• Contact state, provincial or municipal regulatory licensing boards for health care professionals. Health departments and boards may have information on nearby practitioners.

• To meet the rising demand for complementary and alternative care services, many health insurance plans have options for you to access these services. However, many plans provide only limited coverage for many CAM services.

• Referrals from friends and family members may yield the name of an effective local CAM practitioner.

Individuals should keep in mind that unless CAM services are covered by insurance, it is very likely that all expenses will be out-of-pocket. When searching for a specialist, be sure to find one who is qualified and verify his or her training, certifications and licensing before beginning any treatment.

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