There seem to be many rumors in the ND community around what it means to be a naturopathic primary care provider. It's confusing to say the least. I'd like to try to correct some myths that I constantly run into.
1) The insurance companies are going to make me prescribe statins!
One of the most common misconceptions I hear is that you have to prescribe statin meds and other specific drugs. This couldn't be further from the truth. You do have to show that you are providing quality care to your patients - how you get there is up to you.
2) I'm going to have to administer vaccinations!
Nope, you don't have to do that either. What you do need to do is counsel your patients on the risks and benefits of vaccination, and honor their choice. Not YOUR choice - THEIR choice. But like the many naturopathic doctors before us, you can refer them elsewhere to obtain services that you don't provide.
3) I will have to abandon my naturopathic principles!
Absolutely not. When you practice primary care as an ND you save your patient time and money, you provide them with valuable education about health and wellness, you use the least harmful treatment methods that are safely possible, and most importantly, you listen to them. In fact, naturopathic principles are embraced now more than ever before within conventional standards of “patient-centered care.”
4) Integrating and collaborating with conventional care means losing the heart of naturopathic medicine!
Integrating is not the same as being assimilated. Successful integration is having continuity of care where the ND refers a patient to advanced care and/or hospitalization, and they send the patient back with a pertinent report on what happened in their care. Integration is also having an ND's out-patient orders filled for imaging, diagnostic procedures and nursing services. None of this integration requires an ND to modify their practice. Integration DOES elevate the ability of the ND to act competently in the PCP role.
Being a primary care provider is not right for every ND, but there is plenty of room in the healthcare system for NDs to practice as either a PCP or a Specialist. We are all in this together, and even as the profession grows and changes with the times and with patient needs, it all comes back to our 6 guiding principles. As long as we follow them, the community and the profession will be better for it.
As Naturopathic Doctor the principle of treating the whole person is a core value. When you have a patient in your office that is obese, diabetic, with neuropathic pain and IBS. Do you only treat their IBS only, because your specialty is gastro? Do you not care that insulin resistance and metabolic disorder is contributing to the IBS? Do you only rely on the endocrinologist or the MD/DO/RN primary care provider to do the diet counseling, medication management and lifestyle counseling? NDs treat the whole person and all aspects of health, with specialist consultation on more difficult and complicated cases and conditions. I recognize there are NDs that specialize on oncology, or on mental health disorders, or prolotherapy etc, because that is their passion or that is what produces the most revenue. Most NDs treat the patient as a whole person and make sure that other aspects of health beyond their specialty area are addressed, this is primary care.