Health consumers may want to take a close look into the
background, qualifications, and competence of any potential healthcare practitioner,
whether a physician or a practitioner of alternative and complementary healthcare.
First, contact a state or local regulatory agency with
authority over practitioners who practice the therapy or treatment you seek. The practice
of complementary and alternative medicine usually is not as regulated as the practice of
conventional medicine. Licensing, accreditation, and regulatory laws, however, are
increasingly being implemented.
Local and state medical boards, other health regulatory
boards or agencies, and consumer affairs departments provide information about a specific
practitioner’s license, education, and accreditation, and whether there are any
complaints lodged against the practitioner. Check to see if the practitioner is licensed
to deliver the services the practitioner says he or she delivers.
Appropriate state licensing of education and practice is
the only way to ensure that the practitioner is competent and provides quality services.
Most types of complementary and alternative practices have national organizations of
practitioners that are familiar with legislation, state licensing, certification, or
Some organizations will direct medical consumers to the
appropriate regulatory agencies in their state. These organizations also may provide
referrals and information about specific practitioners. The organizations usually do not
function as regulatory authorities, but promote the services of their members.
Second, talk with those who have had experience with this
practitioner, both health practitioners and other patients. Find out about the confidence
and competence of the practitioner in question, and whether there have ever been any
complaints from patients.
Third, talk with the practitioner in person. Ask about the
practitioner’s education, additional training, licenses, and certifications, both
unconventional and conventional. Ask about the practitioner’s approach to treatment
and patients. Find out how open the practitioner is to communicating with patients about
technical aspects of methods, possible side effects, and potential problems.
When selecting a healthcare practitioner, many medical
consumers seek someone knowledgeable in a wide variety of disciplines. Look for a
practitioner who is easy to talk to. You should feel comfortable asking questions. After
you select a practitioner, the education process and dialogue between you and your
practitioner should become an ongoing aspect of complementary healthcare.