Written Feb 10th, 2014 by Brad Dyment
Practitioner Spotlight: Dr. Aarti Patel, ND
This is a blog series profiling the philosophies, practices, and work spaces of integrative health professionals. This week we spoke with Dr. Aarti Patel, ND.
Aarti Patel is a Naturopathic Doctor at Inner Balance Natural Health in Oakland, California. She graduated from Bastyr University in 2009 and had a private practice in Seattle before landing in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Why did you become an ND?
During childhood, I noticed many Indian kids around me wanted to be doctors, and the race had begun. I had family pressure to singularly achieve that goal. I had to struggle with that for a long time before I realized I didn’t want to be a doctor in the traditional sense. However, I felt a strong connection to helping others get healthy… so I was very confused. Finally, after many years and some experience working in a traditional health care field, I discovered natural medicine, which resonated with who I am as a person and my unique skill set. Soon enough, I was off to earn my naturopathic doctorate degree.
Have you had any mentors along the way?
I have had many mentors throughout the years, both within the health care field and from outside of it. In each new chapter of my life I have come across wise and helpful people who have encouraged me to grow as both a person and a doctor.
Do you have any favourite books or blogs?
Yes! I am a sucker for all books and blogs related to natural and conventional medicine, but some more unique sources of inspiration in writing include reading mysteries (where I hone my detective skills), children’s books like those of Roald Dahl (where I tap into my inner kid), and Nancy Drew computer games (where I get to practice my 007 sleuthing).
What’s something people might not know about you?
One thing people don’t know about me is that I love to draw. During my last year of clinical internship at Bastyr, I drew out homeopathic remedy states and eventually published a book containing the cartoon drawings.
It’s called “Picture It: Homeopathy”, and it provides picture-based snapshots with in-depth descriptions of 32 common remedies and their personalities. A second thing is—I love Bollywood dancing!
Tell us about your practice.
My practice is called Inner Balance Natural Health. I’m a solo naturopathic doctor in an integrative clinic that also offers chiropractic medicine, acupuncture, and massage. Prior to working there, I did more home visits which I enjoyed. Now I am seeing more patients in-office too. I have also done virtual visits using phone or Skype.
I’m the office manager for my practice. Over time I’ve learned that a naturopathic business involves two areas of practice - health & office. Grooming the office side has been just as important to my practice as grooming the health side—sometimes more so. When the office side of my practice feels organized and balanced, I feel more prepared to see patients and provide quality care.
How do you stay organized and manage your time?
One thing that helps me manage my time as a naturopath and an office manager is my planner. I choose one at the beginning of the year and always write in it with pencil. I keep it handy to help me keep track of business and personal matters. I’m always up for learning new ways to manage my time better.
Any tips on finding new patients?
Free 10-minute phone consultations have helped me in practice. I get to “meet” prospective patients a bit before the in-person appointment. The quick chat helps me learn the focus of each visit and answer any questions the patient may have about naturopathic medicine appointments. I also write focused natural health articles in areas of practice that I want to see patients in. I look for local sources such as newspapers, online health websites, and integrative pharmacies to submit my articles to.
I really enjoy teaching in my practice. The teaching element of naturopathic medicine is a real part of the treatment plan, because people do want to learn about their health. I maintain relationships with existing patients through follow-up e-mails, monthly newsletters, and a practice blog. I try to add a dose of inspiration into the newsletters because getting healthy can be challenging and involve ups and downs.
No matter what, it’s most helpful for my practice when I find time to relax, get perspective, be creative, and have fun too in between working. After all, that’s what I wish my patients to experience alongside their work and responsibilities.
What software do you use in your practice?
One challenge in my practice from the get-go was finding a virtual dispensary where patients could conveniently order natural health products. I tried to keep track of who was getting what, and it wasn’t very easy. This issue made follow-ups a bit more challenging too.
Then I received an e-mail about Fullscript and clicked on it out of curiosity. It has been an integral part of my practice ever since. Using Fullscript, not only can I create a list of clickable products for each patient’s personalized prescription, but I can also add instructions for use and a unique greeting. Patients have found Fullscript very easy to use, and I get to keep track of each prescription that goes out. I love it!
WordPress, Elegant Themes, and HostGator have all come in handy in my practice as well. I wanted to create a practice website I could interact with and update regularly with blog posts and health tips. WordPress gave me the platform and Elegant Themes helped me with the design. HostGator has been a great hosting company for the site.
I use a bit of social media for my practice, but not much so far. Google Analytics has helped me keep track of where traffic is coming from to my website. Based on what I see, I know where to submit more natural health articles and guest blog posts. I love writing about natural health (to keep learning and for marketing) so this feature is helpful.
Any advice for up & coming naturopaths?
For new grads, my advice is to do it your way. Try to develop your unique style as a naturopathic doctor, and this will give office visits a nicer flow, make marketing efforts more targeted, and open up pockets for more learning and expanding. It’s not always easy, but it’s not always hard either. Being willing to learn as you go can help you create a quality and rewarding service. One more thing I would say (and which I’m still learning to do) is—-try to be patient. Practicing is called practicing for a reason! :) This attitude will help you teach patients how to practice healthy lifestyle habits.