Is Your Doctor Truly Listening to You?
ND Consult Live Blog; Dr. Michael Morse, ND. August 2nd, 2019.
If you live in the US (or any other country with burned out doctors) you’ve likely seen a doctor where the visit lasted 5 minutes. As your doctor is getting up to leave, you’ve probably felt that familiar panic as you desperately try to remember symptoms you wanted to mention. Doctors even have a term for this called the “Doorknob Phenomenon”. This is when the doctor puts their hand on the doorknob to leave and end the visit and you suddenly remember that horrible chest pain you’ve been having.
An issue of quality time
Having worked in both allopathic and naturopathic settings, I can tell you that the Doorknob Phenomenon does happen with long visits too, just not nearly as frequently. This is because the 60+ minute average visit length for naturopathic doctors is usually more than enough time for everything to be brought into light. Most doctors truly do care and do want the best for their patients regardless of their approach to medicine. Unfortunately for both patients and doctors, conventional doctor visits have to be quick because the doctor has to squeeze so many patients into one day in order to pay the bills and support staff. The same is even more true for conventional online doctor visits. Visits with naturopathic doctors inherently must be long because of their approach to the patient. Naturopathic doctors take a bottom up approach as they try to get to the root cause of your health problems. It is the exact opposite in conventional medicine. Allopathic medicine takes a symptoms-based and reductionist approach to disease where a win is considered getting the patient back to baseline. But what if your baseline level of health is just teetering on the edge of being functional? For many of us, it is.
The conventional approach
What this ends up looking like: you’ve been struggling with anxiety so you decide to go see your conventional family doctor. After the usual check up, the topic of anxiety comes up. The doctor asks what they might be stressed about. You can’t quite place it but it’s been slowly worsening and you’re not sure what to do. Your doctor sends you away with a prescription for Xanax and tells you to go find a therapist. You end up taking the Xanax regularly and feel like a zombie and find it near impossible to get off of it.
The naturopathic approach
Now imagine again: You’ve been dealing with anxiety and you’ve already been through the run around of conventional medicine. You decide to go to a naturopathic doctor. Your first visit starts with the usual new patient paperwork and you’re surprised at how in-depth it is. During the visit, in addition to the relevant personal and family medical history, your doctor is asking you targeted questions about your diet, lifestyle, sleeping and exercise habits, your relationships and living situation, your work history and anything else they can think of to really understand your case. Usually you’ll conclude the visit with some lab orders and you’ll come back for a follow up visit to go over results and your comprehensive treatment plan. The treatment plan would likely contain the kinds of lifestyle and diet changes you’ve heard of before but never had a plan so clearly laid out for you. If your anxiety was bad enough, your doctor will likely prescribe something (usually herbs or supplements) in the short term so that you can tackle the other changes much easier.
The bottom line
Again, there are exceptions to this and there are many conventional doctors out there doing their best with the time they have. It’s just that with naturopathic medicine the exception is the rule.