Communication about complementary and alternative medicine: perspectives of primary care clinicians

Altern Ther Health Med. 2006 Jan-Feb;12(1):56-63.


Background: People in the United States are using complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) increasingly while they are also receiving conventional care. National population-based surveys and studies in primary care settings have documented inadequate communication about CAM between patients and their conventional healthcare providers. Most studies about CAM communication have surveyed urban practices and focused on physicians. Information about how physicians and non-physician in rural areas clinicians communicate with their patients about CAM is needed to develop strategies for improving the quality of care for patients in rural areas.

Objective: To investigate how primary care clinicians in the Kentucky Ambulatory Network (KAN) communicate with patients about CAM and to determine interest in additional education about CAM.

Methods: A self-administered survey was mailed to 112 community clinicians in a research network of largely rural practices. KAN members include primary care physicians, nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, and physician assistants practicing in 32 counties in central and eastern Kentucky.

Results: Of 102 deliverable surveys, 65 (64%) were returned. Sixty-one (94%) clinicians reported patient CAM use. Few clinicians consistently asked patients about CAM. A positive attitude toward patient CAM use was associated with clinician comfort in advising patients. Most clinicians recommended CAM to patients. Seventy percent of KAN clinicians expressed interest in continuing education about CAM.

Conclusions: Kentucky primary care clinicians are aware of their patients' CAM use and are motivated to learn more about CAM so that they can appropriately advise their patients. They need evidence-based, clinically relevant education about CAM to provide better patient care.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Complementary Therapies / statistics & numerical data*
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Family Practice / standards
  • Family Practice / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kentucky
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / standards
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Primary Health Care / standards
  • Primary Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Referral and Consultation / statistics & numerical data