Alternative medicine

Ontario doctor Richard Nahas wants to bring evidence to alternative medicine

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There has long been a scientific and cultural divide between conventional and alternative forms of healing.

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Now an Ontario doctor is trying to bridge the gap.

Dr. Richard Nahas worked on both sides of the fracture. He spent more than four years in Canadian emergency rooms before studying alternative medicine around the world and founding his current practice: The Seekers Center in Ottawa.

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The major problem facing CAM (complementary and alternative medicine) practitioners is proving that their treatments help patients without scientific study.
requiring significant funding, said Dr. Nahas.

That’s why he started the BEAM project, or Bringing Evidence to Alternative Medicine. The project aims to link data from CAM providers on the treatment they provide with outcomes reported by dada patients. The idea is to use mobile devices to outsource clinical research.

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“Evidence has never been more important to our society, and this is especially true in the field of medicine,” Dr. Nahas said. “As a result, all health professions seek credibility in the eyes of Medicare and insurance companies. Funders want to know what works and what doesn’t.

This puts many forms of alternative or integrative healing in a difficult position, Dr. Nahas said. Although some CAM treatments may not be helpful, many people assume they are all unnecessary, Dr. Nahas said.

“And I doubt that 100% of ‘unproven’ treatments have anything to add to health care,” Dr Nahas said. “Negative biases in the medical profession and in many universities, combined with a lack of funding for therapies that cannot be patented, have stifled innovation and discouraged research to validate natural approaches to healing, which has a negative impact on patient care.”

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As a term, alternative healing includes many types of health treatments. The Canadian government describes alternative medicine as “holistic” and involving the “patient as an active participant” with an “emphasis on disease prevention and wellness”.

It is also gaining popularity. A 2016 study by the Fraser Institute found that 56% of Canadians said they had used at least one form of healing or alternative medicine in the past 12 months.

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As alternative healing becomes more and more mainstream thanks to celebrity endorsements and popular culture, it is more important than ever to collect data on
the actual effectiveness of many treatments.

Another alternative medicine practitioner, Dr. Esther Konigsberg, has worked with Dr. Nahas to help develop educational tools for Canadian medical schools.

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Dr. Konigsberg, Medical Director of Integrative Medicine Consultants Inc., described Dr. Nahas as a “dedicated physician who works to empower his patients.”

“I found him a gentle and gracious leader, as well as a visionary in our field of integrative medicine,” she said.

At the Seekers Center, Dr. Nahas focused on innovative treatments for chronic pain, combining approaches from Western medicine and CAM.

He conducted a pilot study of the BEAM app in November and December 2020, using it to evaluate an approach Dr. Nahas developed targeting blockages. He describes them as scars in the nervous system that can persist after injury, and says that although he has seen traditional healers treat blockages in many indigenous cultures and in traditional Chinese medicine, blockages are still unknown to people. Medicine.

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In a pilot study, one of the first lessons learned was the difficulty of getting patients to fill out forms.

“We’ve learned that if you want patients to give you accurate information, you have to figure out how to make it fun for them,” Dr. Nahas said.

For example, doctors will ask patients how many “bad days” they had in the past month. Most patients will give a vague estimate, which is likely different from hard data about their daily chronic pain issues, Dr. Nahas said.

It’s a question all researchers need to answer: How do doctors get the most accurate information from patients about the true effectiveness of health treatments?

“This app could be an important step towards a solution to this problem,” said Dr Nahas. “It’s still in its infancy, but the ultimate goal is to have a tool that patients want to use. While it provides valuable information about which treatments work and which don’t, we want patients to use it because it’s fun.

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The BEAM project is currently in the second phase of development, with plans to document the effectiveness of other CAM therapies. While Dr. Nahas hopes
Eventually making this app available to practitioners around the world, he said, the most important outcome would be to measure the effectiveness of the treatment it provides.

“We want to show that we are making a difference, that we are helping people feel better,” he said. “Even after so many years as a doctor, it still seems like the best way to make the world a healthier place, for all of us.”

An important next phase of the project is to have patient information validated by blockchain technology so that BEAM data can interact with all other medical records for each patient.

That’s why Dr. Nahas is exploring partnerships with existing tech companies that could help finalize the app. Dr. Nahas hopes to eventually offer the technology to the province of Ontario or even the Canadian federal government.

“We need to create space where unproven treatments can play a role in healthcare,” Dr. Nahas said. “We need to get rid of the ‘us versus them’ attitude in medicine and just focus on how to help patients feel better.”

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