Alternative Medicines & Your Primary Care Doctor

Do You Tell Your Primary Care Doctor about All Your Treatments?

Would you believe that over half of patients using complementary and alternative medicines won’t tell their doctors about it? That means that their doctor may not find out about their use of St. John’s Wort (for depression symptoms), and the patient won’t learn that it interferes with their prescription medications.

Almost half of US adults use some form of alternative medicine

Over half won’t tell their doctors**

Not disclosing your complementary and alternative medicine treatments with your doctor can harm your health. 

As a primary care doctor, it’s very important that I understand everything about my patients’ health. That includes what forms of healthcare treatments you are interested in, or are pursuing. 

**A 2018 study by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)  showed that as many as 80% of patients withhold information from their health providers.

Why Patients Don’t Talk about Using Alternative Medicine

Here are some of the reasons people give for not telling their doctors about their alternative care:


Reasons Patients Give


Sentinel’s Response


My doctor doesn’t need to know about my use of alternative treatments.


That’s unfortunately not true. Some forms of CAM interfere with more traditional medical treatments, see the St. John’s Wort example below. And, on a larger level, the more I know about you and how you manage your health, the better we can work together.


Doctors have discouraged my use of alternative therapies in the past.


I understand. Though I may not agree with all forms of CAM, I will listen to you and do my best to understand your perspective and reasons.


I believe my doctor will discourage my use of complementary treatments; or react negatively.


This won’t happen at Sentinel. I am willing to investigate modalities I am not familiar with. Our number one goal is your health and well being.


I know more than my doctor about alternative treatments.


This may be true! But, I frequently investigate modalities I am not familiar with. I also bring knowledge of traditional medicine to our conversation so that we can both be better informed.


My doctor did not ask about using alternative therapies.


I will ask, and I do want to hear about alternative pathways you are trying or considering exploring.


There wasn’t enough time to talk about using complementary medicine alternatives.


Again, that’s not likely to happen at Sentinel. Having time to talk with your provider is one of the reasons why patients join SPC.


I wasn’t using complementary medicine at the time of my visit.


If you are not using a CAM modality at present, but think you may in the future, please let me know.


patient on tele-health-call-discussing-complementary-alternative-medicine-use

Dr. O’Connell is available for tele-health calls. Have you experienced that before?

Consider Sentinel for Your Primary Care

When you have questions about your health, alternative ways to relieve discomfort, or ways you can improve your self-care, these are topics that I discuss with my patients. As a member, you can schedule a tele-health appointment for no extra charge. If you’re new to our practice, contact us to schedule a one-time tele-health call.

Find out more about Sentinel Primary Care. I look forward to talking with you. 

Dr. O’Connell