The use and acceptance of such therapies and medicines in Australia and throughout the world is on the increase. It’s currently estimated that more than 60% of Australians use alternative medicines at least once a year and with the current trend, this figure will continue to rise.

Australians spend about $621 million per year on alternative medicines and $309 million on alternative therapies: a total of $930 million for the sector.

Complementary and alternative therapies

The decision to use Complementary and Alternative Therapies is an important one. The following are topics to consider:

  • the safety and effectiveness of the therapy,
  • the expertise and qualifications of the health care practitioner, and
  • the cost and quality of the service delivery.

1. Asses the safety and effectiveness of the therapy

Generally, safety means that the benefits outweigh the risks of a treatment or therapy. A safe product or practice is one that does no harm when used under defined conditions and as intended.

Effectiveness is the likelihood of benefit from a practice, treatment, or technology applied under typical conditions by the average practitioner for the typical patient. Many people find that specific information about an alternative and complementary therapy’s safety and effectiveness may be less readily available than information about conventional medical treatments. Research on these therapies is ongoing, and continues to grow.

Be an informed health consumer and continue gathering information even after a practitioner has been selected. Ask the practitioner about specific new research that may support or not support the safety and effectiveness of the therapy. Ask about the advantages and disadvantages, risks, side effects, expected results, and length of treatment that you can expect. Tell the practitioner about any alternative or conventional treatments or therapies you may already be receiving, as this information may be used to consider the safety and effectiveness of the entire treatment plan.

2. Examine the practition’s expertise

You may want to take a close look into the background, qualifications, and competence of any potential health care practitioner.

First, contact the appropriate authority over practitioners who practice the therapy or treatment you seek.

The following associations represent the majority of complementary therapy professions. (e.g. acupuncture, Alexander technique, aromatherapy, chiropractic, herbal medicine, homoeopathy, kinesiology, naturopathy, nutrition, osteopathy, reflexology, rolfing, shiatsu, various massage therapies and more ). They provide national standards of education and practice, accreditation, encourage the highest ideals of professional, ethical standards and disciplinary functions.

National Herbalists Association of Australia
www.nhaa.org.au

Australian Traditional Medicine Society Ltd
www.atms.com.au

Australian Natural Therapists Association Ltd
www.anta.com.au

Federation of Natural and Traditional Therapists
www.fntt.org.au

Australian Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine Association Ltd
www.acupuncture.org.au

A visit to any of the above websites will give you further information, together with the facility to find a qualified therapist.

Secondly, 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.

Thirdly, talk with the practitioner in person. Ask about the practitioner’s education, additional training, licenses, and certifications, both unconv

Secondly, 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.

Thirdly, 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 health care practitioner, many 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 health care.

3. Consider the service delivery

The quality of the service delivery is an important issue. However, quality of service is not necessarily related to the effectiveness or safety of a treatment or practice.

Visit the practitioner”s office, clinic, or hospital. Ask the practitioner how many patients he or she typically sees in a day or week, and how much time the practitioner spends with the patient.

Many issues surround quality of service delivery, and each one individually does not provide conclusive and complete information. The primary issue to consider is whether the service delivery adheres to regulated standards for medical safety and care.

4. Consider the costs

Costs are an important factor to consider as some complementary and alternative therapies are not currently reimbursed by health insurance. Many patients pay directly for these services. Ask your practitioner and your health insurer which therapies are reimbursable.

Find out what several practitioners charge for the same treatment to better assess the appropriateness of costs. The professional associations also may provide cost information.

5. Consult your healthcare provider

Most importantly, discuss all issues concerning treatments and therapies with your health care provider, whether a physician or practitioner of complementary and alternative medicine.

Competent health care management requires knowledge of both conventional and alternative therapies for the practitioner to have a complete picture of your treatment plan.

Complementary and Alternative Medicines

In Australia, the Office of Complementary Medicines (OCM) is an organization within the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) set up to focus exclusively on the regulation of complementary healthcare products, which include many traditional medicines, vitamins and minerals, herbal medicines, nutritional supplements and homoeopathic medicines.

In addition there are 2 peak industry bodies:

The Complementary Healthcare Council of Australia (CHC)

The principle body for natural nutrition and health in Australia. It represents the overall complementary healthcare industry as a unified voice on matters in relation to complementary healthcare. The CHC is active in government and regulatory issues, information and education.

The Australian Self-Medication Industry

The ASMI represents the Australian non-prescription consumer healthcare products industry. Their aim is to promote better health through responsible self-medication. This means ensuring that safe and effective self-care products are readily available to all Australians at a reasonable cost.

Sources:

Therapeutic Goods Administration
The Office of Complementary Medicines(OCM)
The Complementary Healthcare Council of Australia (CHC)
The Australian Self-Medication Industry (ASMI)
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (USA)