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Doctors, patients are conflicted about alternative medicine

Consumer Reports News: September 28, 2011 01:18 PM

Doctors and nurses are more likely than patients to turn toward alternative therapies than patients. Yet health professionals, as well as patients, are concerned about the safety and efficacy of alternative medicine. Those are the somewhat contradictory findings of two recent studies that crossed my desk—findings that are mirrored in our own recent survey on alternative medicine.

The first study, in the journal Health Services Research, suggests that health professionals are far more open to alternative therapies such as acupuncture and chiropractic care than I would have guessed. Most turned to them mainly for general wellness.

But in the other report, in the Annals of Family Medicine, researchers interviewed 44 patients and 32 clinicians about alternative medicine. The health professionals mainly worried about safety, and said that more research was needed to prove effectiveness.

Our recent survey of some 45,000 readers reflected similar ambivalence. It found that many patients turn to alternative therapies, and say their doctors often seem open to the treatments as well. But they also often had concerns about safety, trust, choice, and effectiveness.

When it comes to dietary supplements and alternative treatments, patients clearly want better, more evidenced-based advice. One source of that information can be physicians trained in Integrative Medicine, a specialty that tries to combine the best of modern medicine with proven alternative therapies. It also tries to look at the patient’s whole lifestyle, including mind, body, and spirit.

You can find a list of such physicians at the website for the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine.

In addition, check out our guide to 200 commonly used supplements and our other information on natural health.


Personal Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) by U.S. Healthcare Workers [Health Services Research]

Patient and Clinician Openness to Including a Broader Range of Healing Options in Primary Care [Annals of Family Medicine]

Joseph Mosquera, M.D.

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