How Is a Naturopathic Doctor Trained?

A licensed naturopathic physician attends a four-year graduate-level naturopathic medical school and is educated in all the same basic sciences as a doctor of medicine. 

 The same premedical undergraduate coursework is required with a competitive application and admission process similar to conventional medical schools. Besides a standard medical curriculum, naturopathic physicians (NMDs) are required to complete four years of training in: 

  •  Acupuncture 
  •  Botanical Medicine 
  •  Clinical Nutrition 
  •  Counseling 
  •  Homeopathic Medicine 
  •  Physical Medicine (Manual Manipulation of the Joints) 
  •  Psychology 

 They have two years of supervised clinical internship and an optional one- to three-year residency program. A naturopathic physician takes rigorous professional board exams, so they can be licensed by a state or jurisdiction as a primary care general practice physician. 

Can a Naturopath Be My Primary Care Provider?

 Absolutely! As primary care providers, naturopathic physicians can do everything your primary care doctor can do, such as: 

  •  Holistic Interpretation to Find the Underlying Cause of the Disease 
  •  Natural Medicines and Therapies As the First Line of Treatment 
  •  Rational Use of Prescription Drugs and Surgery 
  •  Referrals to Specialists When Necessary 
  •  Standard Medical Diagnostic Techniques, Including: 

  1.  Blood Tests 
  2.  Electrocardiogram 
  3.  Extensive Health History Examination 
  4.  Physical Examination 
  5.  Radiology 

What Is the Difference Between Naturopathic Medicine (NMD), Conventional Medicine (MD), and Osteopathic Medicine (DO) Practitioners? 

 

The training of NMDs, MDs, and DOs are similar. However, NMDs are required to learn additional naturopathic modalities. Acupuncture, botanical medicine, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, and nutrition are used before pharmaceutical drugs. As a result, they have a “larger toolbox.” They also prefer to use drugs when only necessary. 


For example, if you think you have the flu, your trip to the NMD would feel different compared to your experience with an MD. At the NMD, there is always time for same-day appointments. For most family practice offices, you usually have to schedule months before an appointment. This makes it hard for you to get treated when you’re sick. 


Once in the office, medical assistants swiftly take your vital signs before the doctor comes in. Afterward, the NMD conducts a thorough health history and physical examination. This part of your visit will feel similar to an MD appointment. The only difference is that you’ll spend double or triple the time with your doctor instead of the quick “in-and-out” appearance most insurance MDs do.


Diagnostic and treatment plan options will be reviewed and you’ll have time to ask questions regarding each of them to make an informed decision. In this case, diagnostics would include blood work and a simple in-office flu test.
 

A typical treatment plan for the flu by the NMD would include a high dose of an intravenous vitamin to rehydrate and stimulate your immune system. Aside from this, injections of medications to help nausea, vomiting, body aches, and fevers are also common. 


Afterward, you will be given an antiviral herbal supplement along with detailed home care instructions and a “pocket prescription” that you can use to get flu medicine. However, you must only use your prescription if necessary. 

 Our patients find that 95% of the time, the natural treatments are successful and the prescriptions aren’t necessary. On the other hand, an MD would only offer you a prescription. 

My Insurance Company Tells Me Your Services Are Not Covered?

Insurance companies stay in business by figuring out how to not pay. However, it is technically illegal for them to discriminate against a licensed primary care provider, which NMDs are in Arizona. This has been in effect ever since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) took effect in January 2014.


We are not yet “in-network” with any insurance company as of the moment. However, we are actively seeking reliable providers. The Arizona Naturopathic Medical Association has been in aggressive communication with the Arizona Department of Insurance because of the discrimination we have faced. 


Until we become in-network providers, we urge patients to send in coded service summaries that are given at the end of the visit and seek reimbursement for office-visit charges. Depending on your specific “out-of-network” provider coverage, you will get reimbursed for a percentage directly from your insurance provider. 


Our association’s attorneys are actively fighting discrimination against NMDs. Many of our patients with good insurance plans are reimbursed for visits to our office without a problem. However, if you are denied by your insurance company, we would like to help you. We omit all personal information and send the denials as evidence. 


We always code laboratory orders, radiology orders, and prescriptions for medicine, so they can be covered by any insurance without a problem. Our office visit charges and supplements are usually the only out-of-pocket expense. We encourage patients to use funds from their Health Savings Account (HSA) for supplements and office visits.