Objective: To describe general practitioners' opinions and behaviour regarding alternative medicine.
Design: Cross-sectional survey of a random sample of Ontario and Alberta general practitioners.
Setting: General practices in Ontario and Alberta.
Participants: A questionnaire was mailed to 400 general practitioners. Of the 384 eligible physicians, 200 completed the questionnaire.
Main outcome measures: Reported beliefs and practices concerning alternative medicine.
Results: Acupuncture, chiropractic, and hypnosis were considered most useful and reflexology, naturopathy, and homeopathy least useful. Results showed 56% of general practitioners believed that alternative medicine has ideas and methods from which conventional medicine could benefit, 54% referred to alternative practitioners, and 16% practised some form of alternative medicine. Province of practice, place of graduation, training in alternative approaches, number of alternative approaches perceived useful, and attitude toward alternative medicine were clearly related to referring to alternative practitioners. Sex, age, type of practice, training in alternative medicine, referring to alternative practitioners, number of alternative approaches perceived useful, and attitude toward alternative medicine were related to practicing alternative medicine.
Conclusion: Although acceptance and integration of alternative medicine extend only to certain approaches, alternative medicine cannot be discounted in general practice. A study encompassing all Canadian provinces could help in planning medical education and developing policies to guide physician behaviour.