Complementary medicine in Germany: a multi-centre cross-sectional survey on the usage by and the needs of patients hospitalized in university medical centers

BMC Complement Med Ther. 2021 Nov 23;21(1):285. doi: 10.1186/s12906-021-03460-6.


Background: The results of recent surveys indicate that more than 50% of the German population has experience with complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) or uses CAM regularly. This study investigated the CAM usage and CAM-related needs of hospitalized patients at university medical centres in the state of Baden-Württemberg, Germany.

Methods: A multi-centre, paper-based, pseudonymous survey was carried out by the members of the Academic Centre for Complementary and Integrative Medicine. Patients of all ages, regardless of sex, diagnosis and treatment, who were hospitalized in the Department of Cardiology, Gastroenterology, Oncology, Gynaecology or Surgery at the university medical centres in Freiburg, Heidelberg, Tübingen and Ulm were eligible for inclusion.

Results: Of the 1275 eligible patients, 67% (n = 854) consented to participate in the survey. Forty-eight percent of the study participants stated that they were currently using CAM. The most frequently used therapies were exercise (63%), herbal medicine (54%) and dietary supplements (53%). Only 16% of the patients discussed CAM usage with their attending physician. Half of the patients (48%) were interested in CAM consultations. More than 80% of the patients desired reliable CAM information and stated that physicians should be better informed about CAM.

Conclusions: The frequency of CAM usage and the need for CAM counselling among hospitalized patients at university medical centres in Baden-Württemberg are high. To better meet patients' needs, CAM research and physician education should be intensified.

Trial registration: German Clinical Trial register ( DRKS00015445 ).

Keywords: Attitudes; Complementary therapies; Health knowledge; Practice; Surveys and questionnaires.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Complementary Therapies / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Germany
  • Hospitalization*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult