Complementary and alternative medicine. The importance of doctor-patient communication

Med Clin North Am. 2002 Jan;86(1):1-10. doi: 10.1016/s0025-7125(03)00068-3.


The foundation of good medical care is a comfortable and evolving relationship between the patient and the physician. Since the dawn of medicine with Hippocrates and later Plato, this relationship was regarded as the foundation of the art of medicine. This bidirectional relationship has evolved over time from a benign physician paternalism to one of patient autonomy. It is hoped that by communicating about CAM, patients and physicians can reach a state of shared comfort, described by Balint as the mutual investment company. To begin this process, physicians must understand the complex and important role CAM plays in modern society. Its increasing prevalence and efficacy benefit (actual and perceived) are difficult points to argue with. Patients need to understand they can turn to physicians to receive constructive feedback with regards to the safety and efficacy of these modalities in an unbiased fashion. Physicians can do no less for their patients. As Peabody said in 1927, "...the secret of the care of the patient is caring for the patient."

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Communication
  • Complementary Therapies* / psychology
  • Complementary Therapies* / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • United States