Is naturopathic care worth the money spent on it? (Part II)

Sponsored by Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine

By Bob Bernhardt, LLM, PhD

Part I presented compelling data on both the efficacy and the economic savings of naturopathic approaches to reducing cardiovascular risk and chronic back pain. Two more studies are discussed below, followed by data on patient behavior, which indicates significant cost savings for those who seek naturopathic care.

The two other studies did not have companion economic analyses, but they did show significant health improvements. Adjunctive naturopathic care for workers with rotator cuff tendinitis (duration of greater than six weeks) produced statistically significant decreases in shoulder pain and disability (P<0.0001); quality-of-life measures; and shoulder extension, flexion, and abduction.1

The study on anxiety found that the group receiving the full naturopathic care experienced significant reductions (P=0.003) in their scores on the Beck Anxiety Index as compared to the control group participants, as well as improvements in mental health, concentration and overall quality-of-life.2

The major Canadian firm that participated in the studies felt that the findings were so significant that they sent out information pamphlets, “Naturopathic Medicine and You”, to approximately 40,000 employees and they increased their coverage for complementary health care by 50%.

The Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM) conducted the four clinical trials referenced in the two blogs. Based on these studies we were curious as to whether patients who were receiving care from naturopathic doctors in the community were reducing their use of other health care resources. CCNM hired Innovative Research, Inc. to conduct a study of attitudes toward naturopathic medicine in Ontario. The study contacted 606 respondents through phone polling and the results are accurate within 4%, 19 out of 20 times. One of the questions asked in the survey was: for those reporting they were seeing naturopathic doctors (N=101), had doing so reduced their use of other health care resources? 30% said it reduced their visits to specialists, 42% claimed it reduced their visits to their family doctor, and 29% stated that it reduced their visits to hospitals. One of the most significant results was the reduction in use of pharmaceuticals: 48% claimed a reduction and 11% stated that the reduction was “substantial”.

To further assess whether these changes could be expected in actual patient behavior, we asked patients who were visiting the naturopathic clinic at CCNM how this impacted their visits to general practitioners (GPs), and 63% claimed doing so reduced their GP visits. Finally, we opened a new teaching clinic within Brampton Civic Hospital, and we asked those patients, many of whom were new to naturopathic medicine, the same questions and the results were again very similar: 77% claimed coming to the clinic reduced their visits to general practitioners; 19% reduced their visits to specialists; 14% reduced their visits to Brampton Civic Hospital, and 59% claimed it reduced their use of pharmaceuticals.

The evidence of safety for naturopathic care has always been strong. The evidence of efficacy is becoming increasingly stronger and the evidence of significant financial benefit is becoming compelling.

Note: Parts of this submission have been extracted from an article that the author wrote in the Benefits and Pension Monitor.

For more information on the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, visit http://www.ccnm.edu/.

About the Author

Bob Bernhardt, LLM, PhD, has been president of the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM) since 2004. He has broad experience encompassing post-secondary education, international education, administrative law, and medical education. Bernhardt's academic background spans science, information systems, education, administrative law, and leadership in higher education. He has led the creation of new post-secondary education departments overseas, consulted on teacher education programs in the Middle East, and is a past president of the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges. Bernhardt believes that future health care must focus on genuine partnerships engaging the patient and their range of healthcare providers, and he sees this as a key to reversing the trend of ever-rising costs.

References

  1. Szczurko O, Cooley K, Mills E et al. Naturopathic Treatment of Rotator Cuff Tendinitis among Canadian Postal Workers: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Arthritis Care Res. Vol. 61, No. 8, August 15, 2009, pp 1037–1045.
  2. Cooley K, Szczurko O, Perri D, et al. Naturopathic Care for Anxiety: A Randomized Controlled Trial. PLoS ONE. 2009 4(8): e6628.