Objective: There are no nationally representative studies using a probability sample that have been published examining whether physicians recommend complementary health approaches (CHAs) to their patients, as previous research has focused only on selected medical specialties or a particular U.S. region. This article fills a void in the current literature for robust data on recommendations for CHAs by office-based physicians in the United States. Design: Descriptive statistics and multivariable regression analyses of physician-level data were from the 2012 Physician Induction Interview of the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NAMCS PII), a nationally representative survey of office-based physicians. Weighted response rate among eligible physicians sampled for the 2012 NAMCS PII was 59.7%. Setting/Location: United States. Outcome measures: Recommendations by physicians to their patients for any CHA, and individual CHAs: massage therapy, herbs/nonvitamin supplements, chiropractic/osteopathic manipulation, yoga, acupuncture, and mind-body therapies. Differences in recommendations by physician demographic characteristics were identified. Results: Massage therapy was the most commonly recommended CHA (30.4%), followed by chiropractic/osteopathic manipulation (27.1%), herbs/nonvitamin supplements (26.5%), yoga (25.6%), and acupuncture (22.4%). The most commonly recommended CHAs by general/family practice physicians were chiropractic/osteopathic manipulation (54.0%) and massage therapy (52.6%). Of all U.S. physicians, 53.1% recommended at least one CHA to patients during the previous 12 months. Multivariable analyses found physician's sex, race, specialty, and U.S. region to be significant predictors of CHA recommendations. Female physicians were more likely than male physicians to recommend massage therapy (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] = 1.76, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.40-2.20), herbs/nonvitamin supplements (aOR = 1.85, 95% CI = 1.46-2.35), yoga (aOR = 2.16, 95% CI = 1.70-2.75), acupuncture (aOR = 1.65, 95% CI = 1.27-2.13), and mind-body therapies (aOR = 2.63, 95% CI = 2.02-3.41) to patients. Psychiatrists (aOR = 0.13, 95% CI = 0.07-0.23), OB/GYNs (aOR = 0.38, 95% CI = 0.24-0.60), and pediatricians (aOR = 0.26, 95% CI = 0.18-0.38) were all less likely to recommend chiropractic/osteopathic manipulation than general and family practitioners. Conclusions: Overall, more than half of office-based physicians recommended at least one CHA to their patients. Female physicians recommended every individual CHA at a higher rate than male physicians except for chiropractic and osteopathic manipulation. These findings may enable consumers, physicians, and medical schools to better understand potential differences in use of CHAs with patients.
Keywords: National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey; U.S. physicians; chiropractic; complementary health; massage therapy; nondietary supplements; yoga.