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ANTA’s Response to Woolworths platform ‘HealthyLife’

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Recent news headlines have highlighted the launch of telehealth consultations via the HealthyLife wellness platform, with free 15-minute Naturopathy consultations as part of the service offerings. In light of this development by retail giant Woolworths, ANTA has felt it necessary to provide a response to the relevant parties in order to protect and uphold the integrity of our association members and the wider natural therapies

Woolworths HealthyLife platform offering “free” Naturopath Telehealth Consultations – A comment, Australian Natural Therapists Association (ANTA)

Last week Woolworths announce the launch of telehealth appointments, via its platform HealthyLife. Whilst virtual healthcare is nothing new especially in a post-pandemic world, the clear promotion of Naturopathic services for free, alongside paid consultations with a Dietitian is what is concerning from a professional standpoint. An intentional move such as this by a retail giant, potentially leaves the Naturopathic Profession open to unnecessary questioning in terms of their clinical legitimacy and expertise, relative to that of a Dietitian.

A highly trusted association nationwide, the Australian Natural Therapists Association (ANTA) works tirelessly to uphold the strict industry standards that are in place for that of our community of members. This allows us to maintain exceptional standards, ensuring that our natural therapists are providing first-rate healthcare in the safest way possible to the public. In our healthcare practitioner community, Naturopaths are licensed primary care providers, completing 4 years of training fulltime at an undergraduate level with extensive clinical practicum. It is critical to highlight to the wider community, that Naturopath’s are required to complete such a high degree of training and study to ensure that standards surrounding evidence-based practice, safety, quality, and clinical efficacy along with those listed in the Australian National Register of Accredited Natural Therapists (ANRANT) for the practice of Naturopathy are continually upheld.

The current model presented by the Woolworths HealthyLife platform also risks clause conflict with The National Code of Conduct for Health Care Workers, without substantially acknowledging the degree of case-taking and patient health assessment that is required to appropriately provide individualised healthcare advice, not to mention safely prescribe herbal medicine and nutraceutical products. Achieving this in a free 15-minute consultation raises many questions, and unfortunately positions itself to devalue the clinical expertise, knowledge, and professionalism of Naturopaths.

Whilst some may argue that a venture of this nature increases the accessibility of Naturopaths to the public and provides employment opportunities (for those seeking something outside of individual clinical practice), it is the positioning and promotion of the service that raises a voice of concern and dissatisfaction. Without attempting to rewrite their business model for virtual healthcare appointments, it would be judicious to consider that qualified Naturopaths are paid accordingly (and fairly) for their unparalleled services and proficiency. From a position of integrity and upholding standards of excellence in the healthcare industry, there is a responsibility that falls into the hands of consumer-facing businesses that seek to utilise health services of such value – it seems Woolworths has dropped the ball in this instance.

{Update} Woolworths HealthyLife platform offering “free” Naturopath Telehealth Consultations

Following the ANTA email on 28th of March about Healthy Life, I had a conversation with the Managing Director of Healthy Life, Ananth Sarathy and Nutritionist Sarah Gray about ANTA’s concerns particularly with regard to upholding the integrity of our profession.

We discussed the value of naturopathic services, and that offering a 15-minute consultation not only has the potential to undervalue these services but also comes with potential risks for the consumer. Ananth was keen to clarify the purpose of the 15-minute naturopathic service, which is designed to be a discovery call, not a naturopathic consult. Sarah indicated that the initial Healthy Life messaging about the 15 minutes may have not been ideal and following the ANTA response email, Healthy Life took steps to improve the communication messages for this service and clarify what the service provided, and what it does not. Please see the updated marketing and communication here: https://www.healthylife.com.au/telehealth/naturopath

While it is our preference that free naturopathic services aren’t offered, this service is not dissimilar to a naturopath in a health food store, designed as a quick call for assistance, for product questions and triage as required. I raised our concern about potential for conflict with the National Code of Conduct for Health Care Workers. Ananth indicated that the naturopaths working for Healthy Life adhere to governance around the service offered and that if health concerns or questions were beyond the scope of a 15-minute discovery call, or there were red flags, then the customer is referred on to the appropriate health care provider, including naturopathic services if indicated. I was informed that it has been routine for the Healthy Life naturopaths to refer clients onto ANTA or other associations with similar standards of education.

I acknowledged during our conversation that paid Dietitian/Nutrition services as part of Healthy Life’s service offering, while naturopathic services are provided for free is something our members were also concerned with. As a result, we moved to broader discussions about full service Naturopathic Telehealth offerings and the potential for paid services through Healthy Life, clearly positioning Naturopaths as a valued service. This option is not currently under consideration, but I will be having conversations with Ananth and Sarah at a future date. Of note is that ANTA provides clear guidelines around Telehealth services, which I discussed with Ananth. These guidelines are available in your member portal to view in detail.

Given my role as ANTA’s Naturopathic Chair is to support the needs of naturopaths in clinical practice, our conversation did not stray into public health concerns regarding Healthy Life relationship with Woolworths. This topic has been written about in the Conversation by Amie Steel and Jon Wardle. Ananth indicated he was also having a conversation with Jon Wardle. See the article here: https://theconversation.com/woolworths-is-getting-into-telehealth-but-patients-need-to-be-treated-as-more-than-customers-202361

ANTA will continue to respond to concerns we have about the integrity and profile of our profession. If you have concerns about a particular issue, please let us know.

 

Your in Health,

Ananda Mahony

ANTA Naturopathy Branch Chair