Ethnicity and physician-older patient communication about alternative therapies

J Altern Complement Med. 2001 Aug;7(4):329-35. doi: 10.1089/107555301750463206.


Objectives: The purpose of this study was to describe ethnic differences in physician-patient communication about alternative therapies, using a data set comprised of audiotapes and transcripts of primary care medical visits.

Methods: The data set was collected during 1995 at the family practice and general medicine clinics at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, Albuquerque, NM. Twenty-seven (27) resident physicians and 205 of their Hispanic and non-Hispanic white patients age 50 and over participated.

Results: Almost 18 percent of patients reported using one or more alternative therapies during the preceding month. Herbal medicine was the most widely used therapy. Eighty-three percent (83%) of patients who reported using an alternative therapy in the previous month did not tell their physicians. Physicians asked one or more questions about alternative therapies during only 3.4% of encounters. Only 2% of patients asked their physicians one or more questions about alternative therapies. There were no ethnic differences in physician-older patient communication about alternative therapies.

Discussion: Physician-patient communication could be improved to enhance physician understanding of the spectrum of interventions patients pursue to improve their health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Communication*
  • Complementary Therapies / psychology*
  • Complementary Therapies / statistics & numerical data
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Female
  • Hispanic Americans / psychology*
  • Hispanic Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New Mexico
  • Odds Ratio
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / ethnology
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Primary Health Care
  • Surveys and Questionnaires