Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Doctors with CAM training more effective

Doctors normally prescribe pharmaceutical drugs to their patients, some almost routinely. This was not always the case. Once GPs had many other skills, connected to life-style, diet, and simple non-drug techniques, and they were able to advise their patients about these.

The dominance of pharmaceutical drugs have led to a de-skilling of our doctors, and this piece of research seems to illustrate that the more knowledge and skills GPs can develop improve their outcomes with patients. This is what the research discovered.

               A small fraction of general practitioners (GPs) in the Netherlands has completed additional training in complementary medicine after obtaining their conventional medical degree. Using a data set from a health insurer, this paper documents that patients whose GP has additional training in anthroposophic medicine, homeopathy, or acupuncture have substantially lower health care costs and lower mortality rates. The lower costs result from fewer hospital stays and fewer prescription drugs. Since the differences remain once we control for neighborhood specific fixed effects at a highly detailed level, the lower costs and longer lives are unlikely to be related to differences in socio-economic status.

GPs, after all, are supposed to be 'general practitioners', not 'specialists in drug treatment' and it is a great shame that most of their training appears to be about drugs. Apparently, GP training on diet and nutrition now appears to be minimal. And it is all-too-apparent that most GPs have little knowledge or understanding of therapies such as homeopathy.

The researchers put forward several reasons why GPs using CAM should produce substantially lower costs and lower mortality rates. They have tended to under-value the simple explanation; the effectiveness and low cost of treatments like homeopathy. And in addition, of course, saving on the cost of treating the DIEs (disease inducing effects) of conventional drug treatment.