Finding a family doctor is not an easy task.
The chances of finding someone you trust, feel comfortable with, doesn't charge the earth, runs on time, is based at a convenient location AND is easy to book - all at the same time - are probably not high when you are randomly searching the net.
Finding the right doctor is so important because feeling comfortable to talk about what is bothering you is fundamental to getting the right treatment. If you can't say that you leak a little bit of wee when you laugh, your doctor will not be able to discuss incontinence treatment options with you!
There is certainly not one size fits all in medicine. The right doctor for you is someone who fits with your values and how you want to be treated, and that will be different from person to person.
So to help you find your perfect match, Health-a-Porter has interviewed leading doctors with different approaches to treatment. This week, we talked to Dr Carolyn Ee, GP, Researcher and Acupuncturist, about integrative medicine.
First things first. What the heck is integrative medicine??
Integrative medicine blends conventional medicine and evidence based complementary treatments to provide a holistic approach to care.
Integrative doctors are accredited medical practitioners that follow conventional western medicine and use complementary treatments like acupuncture, meditation and mindfulness as part of a holistic treatment to achieve optimal health and healing.
What to expect of a Integrative GP consultation
Integrative GP consultations tend to be longer
Dr Carolyn Ee: I like to ask about lifestyle questions in addition to checking your medical history. Questions about diet and eating habits, physical activity, sleep, personal and family connections will all help put together a holistic picture of a patient's physical and mental health, and what treatment options would be most suitable to each patient's lifestyle.
I also ask about work and life habits and what might be influencing their health - too much alcohol and take away foods that are high on saturated fats and salt, due to a lot of travelling for work for example - are areas where lifestyle changes can have a big impact.
In reality, every good GP aims to do this as the essence of general practice is whole-person care, but the Medicare system in Australia is just not set up to reward longer medical appointments.
In an integrative practice, the expectation is that integrative doctors will spend longer on asking about lifestyle, and setting this expectation up helps integrative doctors really get to the bottom of lifestyle and health.
You will get professional advice on vitamins and supplements
Dr Carolyn Ee: Another difference is that an integrative medicine practitioner will generally go into detail about health supplements. I like to take patients off things they might be buying over the counter and may not need, and to make sure that the supplements they are taking are safe and providing health benefits.
There are a number of supplements blends with few active ingredients that may be cheaper, but have no effect on your health. Talking about supplement safety and regulation will also help patients make sure they are not paying for nothing!
Integrative doctors are generally more open minded about their patients taking vitamins and supplements, and patients appreciate it when a doctor can advise them without being judgemental.
Integrative doctors treat the normal issues you would see a GP for
Dr Carolyn Ee: I see many patients who are generally not feeling well, have fatigue that they cant explain, and a lot of women's health and fertility related issues like irregular periods and period pain. I also do everything else that a GP does like manage cholesterol and blood pressure, do Pap smears and give vaccinations.
Having a longer consultation gives me more time to understand different issues that may be causing these symptoms, and to discuss complementary treatment options like acupuncture.
What services are available at an integrative GP clinic?
Dr Carolyn Ee: It varies from clinic to clinic. Some may offer acupuncture, herbal medicine, nutrition, as well as other allied health services available at conventional GP clinics like psychology and physiotherapy.
How often you need to see an integrative doctor will vary from person to person
Dr Carolyn Ee: It is very hard to say how often I see patients. For younger people in their twenties and early thirties who are generally healthy, once every 2 years may be enough. Some people with complex conditions might need more frequent visits.
Where to go for more info
Carolyn's favourite online health destinations: