Advising patients who seek alternative medical therapies

Ann Intern Med. 1997 Jul 1;127(1):61-9. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-127-1-199707010-00010.


Alternative medical therapies, such as chiropractic, acupuncture, homeopathy, and herbal remedies, are in great public demand. Some managed care organizations now offer these therapies as an "expanded benefit." Because the safety and efficacy of these practices remain largely unknown, advising patients who use or seek alternative treatments presents a professional challenge. A step-by-step strategy is proposed whereby conventionally trained medical providers and their patients can proactively discuss the use or avoidance of alternative therapies. This strategy involves a formal discussion of patients' preferences and expectations, the maintenance of symptom diaries, and follow-up visits to monitor for potentially harmful situations. In the absence of professional medical and legal guidelines, the proposed management plan emphasizes patient safety, the need for documentation in the patient record, and the importance of shared decision making.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Complementary Therapies*
  • Dissent and Disputes
  • Group Processes
  • Humans
  • Managed Care Programs
  • Medical Records
  • Patient Care Planning
  • Patient Participation*
  • Physician's Role*
  • Risk Assessment