Friday, August 26, 2016

Applauding Active Listening in Integrative Medicine

I’m thinking about practicing “integrative dentistry.” What do you think?

I plan to combine traditional, science-based treatments with holistic, alternative approaches that treat the whole patient. Throw in some aromatherapy, a dash of herbal medicines, and some acupuncture. Candles, too.

Apparently, integrative medicine is all the rage these days. Some see it as a much-needed and long-overdue conjoining of traditional medicine with spiritual, holistic approaches to prevention and treatment. Others see it as repackaged garbage.

Of course, I had to try it.

Still looking for answers to my medical problems, I was referred by a friend to an integrative-medicine doctor. His website listed his affiliations with two major medical centers in the United States. It spelled out his philosophy of disease and treatment and emphasized his belief in “balancing” the body’s systems so that one could achieve optimum health. His armamentarium consisted of “health coaching, acupuncture, herbs, vitamins, supplements, minerals, medications, hypnotherapy, nutrition, energy therapies, shamanic journeying, biofeedback, yoga, and IV nutrition, among other modalities.”

I saw all of his armamentarium, and it kind of whizzed past my soft, addled brain.

He also uses a practice model that I’d love to see a dentist try.

A patient looks up your name on the web and finds your website. Your bio is there, along with your treatment specialties and philosophy of care. The patient fills out a questionnaire and history.

Your office emails the patient for an appointment. Then the patient submits a PayPal payment for the full amount before the appointment. Nice, huh?

I drove to this doctor’s office, which was actually a room he rented in a massive antebellum mansion in the garden district of a major southern city. We went into an empty room with two chairs and a TV tray for his laptop. Small talk ensued. Then he asked me to tell him my story, and I did.

He listened patiently for almost an hour as I explained my symptoms, and he interrupted me only to get clarification and ask follow-up questions. He typed on his laptop the whole time as he listened.

Then he asked me a question I’ve never heard from another physician: “Is there anyone in your life from whom you need to ask forgiveness?” Wha? Me? Gee, that never occurred to me. What does that have to do with colitis?

He then asked permission to give my life story back to me. As he talked, he tied in all sorts of threads that I had mentioned and painted a coherent and reasonable picture of my life over the past few years. Incidents that I mentioned mainly as a way of keeping the story straight in my head he used to show causation. I was highly impressed. He suggested a million blood tests and that I go gluten- and casein-free. I was hoping for acupuncture but was disappointed.

And of course, all my follow-ups were conducted via phone after PayPal had been satisfied.

Wouldn’t that be fun? PayPal payments before patients come into the office? Before you call them back?

While I’m no fan of his practice model, I did like his active listening skills. I’ve had enough training to recognize a good listener who devotes his attention to me. It’s something people instinctively notice and respond to. As a patient, it ruffles my feathers when the doctor already is nodding with a solution in mind before I’ve finished giving him or her all the needed information. Even when I’m in a hurry and behind schedule, my patients have my attention.

So, while “integrative dentistry” may be way down the road, I have “integrated” some basic humanity in with my dentistry. That actually may be a novel approach.

Bruce M. Scarborough, DMD, FAGD


gatordmd said...

How come you never asked ME for forgiveness? (I laughed out loud in the office)
This could be why you have stomach issues.

Great stuff,

PS. You should integrate shamanic journeying into your treatment plans.

Apu Mridha said...

Thanks for sharing such an amazing and informative post. :)


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