Module Six

Monitoring your Complementary Medicine Decisions

Why monitor and evaluate your complementary medicine use?

It is common to assume that natural health products and other complementary medicine therapies cannot harm your body or interfere with drug treatments. After reviewing Modules Two and Three, you now know this is not the case. It is important to see if there are any changes, both positive and negative, after you start using complementary medicine therapies.

Four things to monitor

Based on what we have covered in the previous modules, we recommend that you monitor four things for each complementary medicine therapy you use:

  1. Effectiveness – is this therapy "working"?
  2. Side effects or interactions with drugs and other therapies-are they expected or unexpected?
  3. The dose and timing of your therapy use. Have you made changes?
  4. Does the outcome of using the therapy justify the time and/or money spent?

How are you currently evaluating complementary medicine use?

We recommend only starting one complementary medicine therapy at a time, because it will be difficult to answer these questions for each therapy if you start multiple complementary medicine therapies at once. Waiting to see the effects of one therapy before starting a new therapy will allow you to determine what outcomes and side effects are the result of which therapy.

SMART goals revisited

Now is a good time to revisit the use of SMART goals (see Module Four). Understanding your goals will provide direction as you choose, monitor, and evaluate your CM use. Take some time to make sure your goals are relevant to you and your situation. Ensure you can reasonably achieve them, such as ensuring you can manage the time and effort needed, afford the cost involved, and know how you can tell if you are achieving each goal.

You also need to gather information about using the therapy, including:

  • How long do you use it?
  • How often is it used?
  • What is the dose?
  • What are the possible side effects?

Your time commitment

You also need to consider the time commitment required to use a therapy:

  • How long before you see outcomes from the treatment?
  • How long do you need to use the treatment? (Does this work with your goals)

It is important to note that some natural health products should only be taken for a specific, limited period of time because of their side effects.


Dose: how much complementary medicine therapy should you use?

Before using a complementary medicine therapy, you should have a good understanding of how much you should use to achieve your goal. It is important to avoid taking more than the recommended dose of a therapy, even if it seems natural and non-toxic. Questions to ask include:

  • How often should the CM therapy be taken or experienced?
  • In what amount?

Natural health products: Unusually natural health products will have a standard recommended dose, or the research will recommend a general dose range of both amount and frequency. Complementary medicine practitioners should outline a course of treatment.

You'll want to set goals of time spent and how often you engage in therapies that you do on your own or under instruction, such as mindfulness based stress reduction or tai chi.

Adverse event reporting

Ongoing monitoring allows you to watch for known side effects. You may also uncover unexpected side effects that may be related to your particular situation (specific health conditions or other medications or natural health products you may be taking).

To increase the safety and knowledge about natural health products and medications you are using, you can report any suspected adverse reaction of both natural health products and pharmaceutical drugs to the Therapeutics Good Administration (TGA) (opens in a new window) you can also call 1800 044 114.

Adverse event reporting for complementary medicine therapy services

If you experience any adverse events from a complementary medicine therapy service provided by a complementary medicine practitioner, there is no single process for reporting the event. Depending on the severity and impact of the adverse event, you may need to take several actions:

  1. You should let your complementary medicine therapy provider know right away.
  2. Inform your conventional health care provider in case they need to be involved or take action, including changing your conventional care or provide new treatment.

If malpractice is a concern, you will need to also speak with the practitioner's professional organisation.