The impact of COVID-19 on complementary and alternative medicine providers: A cross-sectional survey in Norway

Adv Integr Med. 2021 Dec;8(4):247-255. doi: 10.1016/j.aimed.2021.08.001. Epub 2021 Aug 11.


Background: The Norwegian authorities decided in March 2020 to implement a nationwide lockdown to prevent spread of the COVID-19 virus. The lockdown had vast socioeconomic consequences for the society. The aim of this study was to investigate how COVID-19 affected Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) providers' practice, financial situation, recommendations to patients, and how they perceived their future practice as CAM providers.

Method: Data were collected in this cross-sectional survey using a self-administrated electronic questionnaire. A total of 581 CAM providers completed the questionnaire, which was designed to describe consequences for CAM providers and their clinical practice caused by the nationwide lockdown. Descriptive statistics were carried out using frequency analyses to describe the demographics and consequences of the lockdown. Between group differences (gender and age) were analyzed using Pearson chi-square tests and Fisher's exact tests for categorical variables, and ANOVA tests and t-tests for continuous variables. Significance level was defined as p < 0.05 without adjustment for multiple comparisons.

Result: During the nationwide lockdown of Norway, 38.4% of the respondents were able to provide CAM treatment to their patients. Of those, the majority (96.4%) had reorganized their clinical practice in accordance with COVID-19 hygiene regulations, offered video consultations (57.4%) or telephone consultations (46.6%). To manage financially during the lockdown, half of the providers spent their savings (48.7%). More than one third (35.1%) was supported by their partner, and 26.7% received compensation from the Norwegian state. A total of 26.3% of the CAM providers had other paid work that provided them with income. Nearly a fifth (18.6%) borrowed money from friends and family, changed their loan terms, or took out new bank loans. More than half (62.7%) expressed uncertainty about the future of their practice. CAM providers who had reorganized their practice to online consultations were more optimistic.

Conclusion: The impact of COVID-19 on CAM providers was considerable. It adversely affected their clinical practice, financial situation, and view on their future practice. To ensure that the health needs of the Norwegian population regarding CAM use are met during pandemic times like COVID-19, it is recommended to support and train CAM providers in the development of online CAM services, as well as efficient implementation of infection prevention and control measures.

Keywords: CAM, Complementary and Alternative Medicine; COVID-19; COVID-19, Coronavirus Disease 2019; Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM); Finance management; GP, General practitioner; Pandemic.