Are you in need of a local naturopathic doctor, but you don’t know who to choose? There are many possibilities in the Phoenix area, so it can be difficult to narrow down the perfect doctor to fit your specific needs. The following are some of the most important questions you should ask before making your decision.
Where did they get their education?
A naturopathic medical doctor (ND or NMD) attends 4 years of a nationally recognized medical school for naturopathic medicine. There are only 5 accredited schools in the United States that offer this degree. One of which is the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine located in Tempe, Arizona. Upon the completion of their training, they take a national board examination to obtain their license. It is important to distinguish that a “naturopath” is not the same as a naturopathic doctor and is not considered a medical professional.
Are they licensed?
It is important to work with someone who is licensed. As previously mentioned, naturopathic doctors are required to take a nationally recognized licensing exam as well as a minimum of 30 continuing education credits per year to remain in good standing with their licensing board. If you have a specific condition, it may also be worth asking what training they received after their schooling to make them an expert in that field.
What modalities do they practice?
In the state of Arizona, naturopathic doctors have a wide scope of practice. They can act as a primary care physician and diagnose and treat a wide array of conditions. Each doctor may use different tools to achieve their outcome. Using herbs and other supplements, nutritional counseling, acupuncture, cupping, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, injection therapy, IV therapy and physical manipulations are all modalities that a naturopathic doctor is able to use. However, different doctors may specialize in different modalities. Therefore, finding a doctor that performs the modality you are looking for is key.
Do they partner with other healthcare providers?
If a doctor doesn’t immediately offer the modality you are looking for, they may have someone in their office who they work closely with to provide you a full picture of care. For example, they may see you for office visits and refer to the in-office acupuncturist or chiropractor for further treatment. If they do not have an in-office colleague, ask if there is someone they trust that they can refer you to.
Who will you be working with?
Each practice operates differently. In some cases, the doctor will perform all office visits and therapies. In other practices, a nurse, medical assistant or office personnel may be answering questions about your treatment sheet, getting vitals or performing certain therapies like IVs and blood draws. Make sure the experience is what you are anticipating by asking this question before your first appointment.
What is the fee structure of their practice?
The two main types of practices are fee for service (your traditional model where you pay as you go) and concierge (with a subscription plan). The fee for service allows you to pay directly for the care you are receiving. Concierge may be more expensive, but it often opens up more access to the physician so you can contact them outside of work hours or have same day appointments when needed. Other clinics often offer membership models for certain therapies. For example, if you sign up for a membership to get an IV therapy, you can get a monthly IV at a discounted rate.
What’s their availability?
Make sure your doctors hours fit with your schedule so that you are more likely to follow up when needed. Some doctors work a standard 9am-5pm, while others have more flexible hours that opens up the opportunity to see them mornings, evenings and weekends. Also, if you require regular maintenance care, it is important to ask if the clinic shuts down at any point during the year. (For example, many clinics will take a 2-4 week vacation in the summer or during the holidays).
Do they take insurance?
Most insurance companies will not contract with naturopathic doctors. Therefore, it is not common to find a naturopathic physician who takes insurance. Appointments, therapies, and specialty labs are often out of pocket expenses. That being said, it is often possible to run basic labs through insurance and doctors are able to take payments from a health savings account. Insurance companies often dictate how much time a doctor can spend with a patient. Therefore, the benefit of having a doctor who is not subject to insurance companies is they can spend as much time as needed with you to really investigate your case and determine the best treatments possible. Many patients report feeling heard for the first time after seeing a naturopathic doctor because of how thorough the visits are.
Don’t be afraid to interview your doctor!
Many doctors will have a short consultation to discuss your case and determine if you are a good fit for naturopathic medicine. This time can help you to ask questions and determine if you feel comfortable with this person to help you on your health journey. Each doctor will have a different style and a different approach to healthcare. Asking your doctor their experience with your condition, their approach toward treating it, how often you will have to see them for appointments and their success rate are all important questions to determine if they are a good fit.
Finding a doctor that you trust can be overwhelming! Making sure that you spend the time to ask these questions will assure that you have a perfect fit for your health goals!