Health care and consumer choice: medical and alternative therapies

Soc Sci Med. 1997 Jul;45(2):203-12. doi: 10.1016/s0277-9536(96)00334-6.


This paper reports on research conducted in a large Canadian city during 1994-1995. The study examines the motivations of patients who choose to seek care from one of five different types of practitioners: family physicians, chiropractors, acupuncturists/traditional Chinese doctors, naturopaths and Reiki practitioners. We use the Andersen socio-behavioural model to help explain why people choose orthodox medicine or a type of alternative care. The data are derived from face to face interviews with 300 patients: 60 from each of the five modes of treatment. The findings demonstrate that this model can explain the use of alternative as well as orthodox medical services. Patients choose specific kinds of practitioners for particular problems, and some use a mixture of practitioners to treat a specific complaint. The choice of type of practitioner(s) is multidimensional and cannot solely be explained either by disenchantment with medicine or by an "alternative ideology".

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Canada
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Complementary Therapies*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Healing
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care*
  • Patient Participation*
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Sick Role
  • Urban Population*