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Multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches in naturopathic care

Person-centred care also encompasses, multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary care. But what do these model of care?

With today’s increase in chronic diseases and a need for a more person-centred approach to care, health care practitioners including naturopaths needs to focus on multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary.

It is well evidenced that patients who see naturopaths often have chronic diseases, and these individuals often need a larger healthcare team McIntyre et al., 2019. But how does a naturopath collaborate in healthcare teams? The two approaches that we will cover are referred to as multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary care approaches.

Multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary care

Multidisciplinary care is defined as multiple health care practitioners using their own discipline’s knowledge and skills in patient care without collectively interacting Choi & Pak, 2006. While interdisciplinary care refers to various health care practitioners using their own discipline’s knowledge and skills, interacting and collaborating in patient care Choi & Pak, 2006. These terms are often used interchangeably but their differences are essential in how naturopaths deliver care. A multidisciplinary approach may entail a naturopath referring a patient to another health care practitioner for specific care. For example, if further testing is needed and is outside of the naturopath’s scope of practice, if the case is complex and needs a multidisciplinary approach, or at the patient’s request. This approach within the person-centred model is fundamental in contemporary clinical practice. In comparison, an interdisciplinary approach aspires to have a deeper level of collaboration where the health care practitioners are from different clinical backgrounds but combine their knowledge and mutually agree upon the approach to patient care Jennings & Astin, 2020. This approach may be more common in conventional health care settings, but naturopaths can also work in this model.

Integrative care meets naturopathic medicine

Integrative approaches or integrative healthcare is a new concept that relates to blending both conventional healthcare and complementary medicine practices and treatments to collective aim for a whole person-centred approach to care. There has yet to be consensus on an exact definition of integrative healthcare. Still, the purpose is consistent and relies on specific elements about providing holistic, person-centred, evidence-based and personalised care that includes collaboration with other healthcare practitioners who support the emphasis on health, wellness, and disease prevention Leach et al., 2018.

How do you think integrative healthcare may look in naturopathic practice? Naturopathic medicine ascribes to a whole-person approach to care and educates patients on circumnavigating healthcare services relevant to the patient’s needs, values, and preferences Sadowski et al., 2022. As naturopathic medicine naturally draws on the specific elements of integrative healthcare, using this approach in clinical practice is ideal. For example, naturopaths working within an integrative healthcare approach can optimise patient health outcomes by supporting or reducing known side effects of pharmaceuticals Harnett, 2021. Equally, naturopaths can educate patients on dietary and lifestyle factors that could reduce disease pathophysiology or improve areas of quality of life. These are examples of how naturopaths may be supportive of integrative healthcare. Similarly, communication between health care practitioners and patients is critical with a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approach to naturopathic care. Also, educating and supporting the patient in healthcare disclosures (i.e. disclosing what treatments, pharmaceuticals, and health care practitioners a patient is seeking care from) can ensure that naturopathic medicine is practised safely and effectively.

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Fundamentals of Naturopathic Medicine

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