Types of Practice

Though this article has been written keeping in mind the Indian Homeopathic practice, this is pretty much true of all the other systems of medicine and other countries too. Today’s world has become highly commercial and medical practice is no exception to escape from the ‘commercial’ juggernaut. There are basically four types of Homeopathic practices in India and probably in most of the other places of the world. The first one is a medical shop-based practice, the second – a small clinic-based practice, the third – a large hospital/corporate-based practice, and the fourth a charitable hospital/clinic.

The license for a Homeopathic medical shop can be brought by any reasonably educated person with a certain amount of experience of working in a Homeopathic clinic or a shop. Most of the people who obtain the licenses have a deep interest in Homeopathy but they might be from any profession – in other words, people might be doing other jobs and also run these shops. These people would have learnt the principles of Homeopathy from a qualified doctor or even a layman who has a sound command over Homeopathy. Though these people wouldn’t call themselves doctors, not at least publicly or officially, the general public might start calling them junior doctor or a person who visits the medical shop once or twice a month as a senior doctor. Despite these ‘so-called’ doctors’ free  consultation, they are still able to earn money by prescribing several kinds of medicines – this includes a standard single or more than one Homeopathic remedy, few biocombination/biochemical medicines and syrups, ointments, hair oils, shampoos, etc. as required on a case-to-case basis. So even though there is no consultation fees as such, the money is recovered through the sale of medicines. The last category of medicines are very similar to Allopathic or other systems of medicine in that they consist of combinations of several different medicine, the only difference being the dosages of the medicines involved. Homeopathy in general uses very low or minute quantities of medicines, some even exceeding the Avogadro’s limit whereas the medicines from other systems use fairly large empirical quantities of medicines.

In the second kind of practice are the small clinics which cater to the largest number of patients among all the three categories of practice. The fees in these clinics range from a few hundred rupees to thousands and even lakhs depending upon the popularity of the doctor involved. Mind you, some doctors might even charge two digit figures as consultation fees even in these costly days but such doctors need to have an exceptionally large number of patients. Or else, they will be quickly out of practice or need to struggle a lot and wait for a very long time to establish their practice. Or they should get ready to be gobbled up by the ‘so-called’ corporate hospitals.

The third category is the large clinics/hospitals or the so-called ‘corporate’ hospitals. These are run by registered companies. These companies offer treatments as packages, typically about 10-20 times or even more (running into hundreds or mostly thousands of rupees and in rare cases touching even the six-figure mark) than the consultations of the other two types of medical practices. The justification for the higher prices being – maintenance of costs/rents of the clinic/hospital facilities, salaries paid to doctors, staff, etc., advertising charges which entails a huge expenditure (probably running into three digit crores over a decade just for advertisments). The ‘corporate’ honchos of these companies might appear like modern-day ‘medical’ Robin Hoods – robbing Peters to pay Toms. The stark difference in the prices might appear surprising but something has to give probably. Otherwise, the old and general perception regarding Homeopathy and Complementary & Alternative Medicine (CAM) in general will continue to exist until the Judgment day.

But it would also be prudent to recall a fictional or may be even real story going around in HR and management circles and being posted on LinkedIn and other such websites. It seems once a large ship had a problem and it wouldn’t budge. A famous shipping mechanic/expert was called in to look into the ship’s problem. The mechanic took a small hammer and casually checked the hull and other parts of the large ship and gave a small tap on a particular location on the ship. Voila – the ship started to move again. The mechanic sent a huge bill of $10,000 to the ship’s owners. The latter were surprise at the huge bill considering the fact that the mechanic had not done a great deal of work. So when the owners asked the mechanic the reason for the huge bill, the mechanic smiled casually and said that the charge for his labor was only 1$ but the $9999 price-tag was for the knowledge of the mechanic – the location of the exact spot to hit upon in such a huge ship. Similarly, corporate hospitals/clinics might justify their huge costs of treatments by using the above-mentioned allegory.

The fourth category consisting of charitable hospitals/clinics are mostly run by ‘not-for-profit’ organizations but they might charge a small fee to cover the expenses – salaries/fees to be paid to doctors (though some doctors might work pro bono – for free), costs of medicines, salaries to be paid to pharmacists, etc.. These clinics might be stationary or mobile (a privilege granted mostly only to such clinics/hospitals).

Despite all the things mentioned in the above paragraphs, there certainly must be a golden mean among all the different kinds of practices with regard to the price. Besides, even if Homeopathic medicines are considered just as placebos, at least they are not causing any side-effects like the traditional systems of medicine especially allopathic medicines. Especially with regard to Homeopathy, the world is divided into two categories – one group of people who vouch very strongly for Homeopathy and the other group which is an extremely strong opponent of Homeopathy. Of course, there might be a third category which falls in between the whole spectrum, basically like a cat on a wall – sometimes believing in Homeopathy, sometimes mistrusting it, and sometimes absolutely skeptical about it! All said and done, Homeopathy works – scientists are using everything from Quantum mechanics to you name it but unfortunately have been unsuccessful in validating it. The good thing though is that Homeopathy does not cause absolutely any side-effects like antibiotics or scores of other allopathic and medicines from other systems. When such is the case, it is probably better to use a placebo to get rid of people’s health problems rather than using a medicine which creates unnecessary side-effects. Allopathic medicines are certainly useful in emergencies and they used be mostly used for those. Not that Homeopathic and other CAM medicines are not useful in emergencies – they are certainly useful. But if patients are skeptical of CAM, let them use allopathic medicines for emergencies. And with regard to the costs, a ‘golden’ mean can be reached at which is acceptable to both the patients and doctors.