Disclosure of CAM use to medical practitioners: a review of qualitative and quantitative studies

Complement Ther Med. 2004 Jun-Sep;12(2-3):90-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2004.09.006.


Background: Many people use complementary or alternative medicine (CAM). It is estimated that over 50% of patients that require health care use CAM either in conjunction with, or separate from, conventional health care. Despite the popular use of CAM, patients do not always inform their conventional medicine health carers of their CAM use. The medical practitioner is in most cases the first health care professional a person contacts concerning a health care matter, and needs to have a full history of a health problem to understand and provide optimum care. This literature review aims to provide an understanding of the degree to which patients disclose their use of CAM to their medical practitioners, and their reasons for not doing so.

Method: A comprehensive literature search identified 12 studies published between 1993 and 2002 that examined what percentage of consumers did not disclose to their medical practitioners their use of CAM, and their reasons for not doing so.

Results: The rate of non-disclosure of those using CAM is as high as 77% in some studies. The main reasons patients provided for not disclosing their use of CAM to their medical practitioners were concerns about a negative response by the practitioners, the belief that the practitioner did not need to know about their CAM use, and the fact that the practitioner did not ask.

Discussion: The pre-conceptions patients have that influence their non-disclosure may be based on three issues. First, beliefs and concerns that influence their decision-making, second personal experiences in their consultations with medical practitioners, and third, the desire for more control over their health care. Medical practitioners need to acknowledge the concerns and beliefs of patients in making their health care decisions, and work with patients so that the use of CAM is acknowledged and the patients' needs, beliefs and concerns respected.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Attitude to Health
  • Complementary Therapies*
  • Humans
  • Medical History Taking / methods
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Truth Disclosure*