Background: Little is known about policies governing the integration of complementary and alternative medical (CAM) therapies and providers.
Methods: To document emerging approaches in 19 US hospitals regarding credentialing, malpractice liability, and pharmacy policies governing integration of CAM therapies and providers into conventional medical settings, we surveyed 21 academic medical centers and 13 non-academically affiliated hospitals that are nationally visible and are integrating CAM therapies into conventional medical settings. Of the 19 respondents, 11 were tertiary care hospitals, 6 were community hospitals, 1 was a freestanding center associated with a community-based hospital, and 1 was a university-based rehabilitation hospital.
Results: Institutions had no consistent approach to provider mix and authority within the integrative care team, and minimum requirements for professional liability insurance, informed consent disclosure, and hiring status. Less than a third had a formal (stated) policy concerning dietary supplements; those selling supplements in their pharmacy lacked consistent, evidence-based rationales regarding which products and brands to include or exclude. Although many hospitals confiscated patient supplements on admission, institutions had inconsistent criteria regarding allowance of home supply.
Conclusions: Hospitals are using heterogeneous approaches to address licensure, credentialing, scope of practice, malpractice liability, and dietary supplement use in developing models of integrative care. The environment creates significant impediments to the delivery of consistent clinical care and multisite evaluations of the safety, efficacy, and cost-effectiveness (or lack thereof) of CAM therapies (or integrative models) as applied to management of common medical conditions. Consensus policies need to be developed.