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  • Dr Kristina Conner

What does it actually cost to see a natural medicine doctor?

Final installment of our Comprehensive Cost Guide to Natural Medicine

We've talked about lots of theory, but what does it actually cost to see a natural medical practitioner? Here’s an example to put these ideas into real world context, with an estimate of costs. Note: I am using our WTNM office fees in this example, but this will vary somewhat depending on the location and provider. It also assumes patient is paying cash, not utilizing insurance for any care. Let’s use Stacey, a woman in her 40’s who decides to seek out natural medical care for the acute issue of frozen shoulder syndrome. Stacey also has some underlying concerns (insomnia, stress, diet, cardiac health). Using the “roof” analogy, she is on steps 3 and 4.

shoulder pain created by shayne_ch13 -

The first stage of care, active care, would address her immediate complaint. A typical active care plan for the first 6 weeks would consist of:

  • initial visit (average cost $180) and in-office treatment

  • treatment plan using home hydrotherapy & exercises (free), diet changes (minimal cost), and 2 herbs/supplements ($90 for 6 weeks)

  • in-office treatments of acupuncture and cupping 2 times a week for 3 weeks, 1 time a week for 3 weeks ($60/ treatment, $540 total)

  • Total of $810 for the active care plan

During active care, the primary goal will be to resolve Stacey’s frozen shoulder syndrome, but we’d also discuss underlying causes and other health issues-- dietary counseling, stress management, insomnia, and cardiovascular health. Often we’re able to start working on these during active care, and then they become a larger focus during ongoing care as the acute issue is less of a problem. Stacey’s ongoing care plan for the next 3 months would consist of:

  • An advanced cardiovascular health lab testing package ($250)

  • 1 office visit ($80) to discuss the treatment plan specific to the lab results

  • Treatment plan using exercise & meditation (free using existing resources), diet changes (minimal cost), and 3 herbs/supplements ($200 for 3 months)

  • In-office treatments of deep tissue massage/bodywork once a month ($70/ treatment, $210 total)

  • Repeat partial cardiovascular lab testing to ensure goals were met ($130)

  • 1 return office visit ($80 total) at the end of 3 months to reassess and set up a maintenance care plan

  • Total of $940 for the active care plan

Let’s assume that all issues were addressed during the ongoing care phase, so Stacey has moved into maintenance care. During maintenance care, underlying causes and other health issues continue to be addressed with a care plan, but the bulk of the work is done resulting in beneficial changes to support health. Rather than just wait for the next issue to arise though, the maintenance phase is not just passive. Monitoring and building the capacity to address future challenges are an important part of this phase. Stacey’s maintenance care plan would consist of:

  • Basic yearly laboratory testing ($160 or more, depending on the package)

  • 1 yearly office visit ($80)

  • Maintenance care plan using lifestyle & diet (no or minimal cost), and herbs/supplements ($40/month or $480 yearly)

  • In-office treatments of deep tissue massage/bodywork once a month ($70/ month or $840 yearly) or acupuncture once a month ($60/month or $720 yearly)

  • Yearly total of $1440-1560 or $120-130/month

Looking for the rest of the Cost guide? Read Why is your health like a roof?, How is Your Health Like a Bank Account? and What level of natural healthcare is right for me?

While each person is individual and each practitioner a little bit different, the overall stages are similar among complementary/natural medicine providers. What happens in each stage is largely determined by the type of practitioner --an acupuncturist of course will probably do acupuncture and a chiropractor will most likely do adjustments. How often treatment occurs in each stage is determined by the treatment (you need more massages but only one surgery) as well as the condition itself (Stacey’s frozen shoulder, an acute condition, will require less treatments than someone with rheumatoid arthritis, a condition someone will have their whole life). In most cases using natural medicine requires work from the patient too, and the more willing/able they can do that work, the less treatments and time it will take to return to health, and the less intense the maintenance phase may need to be.

Final Tips for Choosing a Natural Medicine Practitioner

While it is difficult to calculate, keep in mind that low cost estimates do not always indicate more value. Many treatment prices are determined by standard of care for the area or with insurance payback. But what you should discuss with your practitioner is the most effective and cost-effective route to meet your health goals. Here’s some specific areas you may want to discuss with your prospective practitioner:

  1. Like any other professional service, most natural medicine providers cannot give discounts for care. But do ask about insurance coverage, HSA/FSAs, payment plans, or credit options. Making it more affordable can help you follow through on your full care plan.

  2. If you can do more (lifestyle changes, home therapies) to help your treatment along, do so, but if you cannot, be honest about that—it will help your practitioner give you a more realistic plan.

  3. Remember that most holistic therapies will include not just treating a symptom, but building your body/constitution from prior damage and preventing future issues, so results can take time. But once again, it’s important to communicate with your provider about when/how you’ll see benefits of treatment.

  4. Be sure to discuss what happens if treatment outcomes are not expected; while most practitioners cannot give you a refund or give away services, they may be able to make adjustments that will help you progress if you need more care.

  5. Integration with your conventional medical providers. Be sure to let your MD know what you are doing with natural medical care, and let your NM providers know what conventional care you receive. This is for your safety and so your providers have a full picture. If you want to facilitate more formal communication, even better.

If you’ve read this far, thank you for staying with me! I hope this has given you some insight into the costs of natural medical care and addressed concerns you may have about the value of natural medical care. Please feel free to forward this to someone else who might benefit from the information. If you have any further questions or would like more information about natural medical care at World Tree Natural Medicine, please contact us.