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Chiropractic Research Review

The Communication Gap between Conventional and Alternative Medicine

Of the estimated 60 million Americans who use some form of alternative or complementary medicine, an estimated 70% do not tell their physicians about this use. This communication gap threatens the welfare of patients and makes it more difficult for medical providers to provide informed, accurate care.

This study used a mail-in, self-administered questionnaire to determine what all the primary care and subspecialty physicians in Stark County, Ohio knew and felt about their patients' use of various alternative therapies.

The results showed that only 28% referred patients for alternative treatment. Specialists more commonly indicated they would terminate their relationship with patients because of their use of alternative therapy. But overall, the study found that physicians tended to have an open attitude toward alternative therapies.

The authors suggest that patients should disclose their use of alternative therapies to their doctors. Their conclusion states:

"Contrary to the stereotypical image of physicians who are unwilling to accept any form or alternative medicine, we found that physicians did not lump therapies into a single group; instead, respondents distinguished among different types of therapies when making judgments about clinical efficacy and when they reacted to their patients use of these therapies. A paradigm shift in the medical literature, with increasing availability of specific therapies as well as more information on alternative medicine, may help to stimulate physicians understanding and encourage appropriate referral in the future."

Crock RD, Jarjoura D, Polen A, Rutecki GW. Confronting the communication gap between conventional and alternative medicine: a survey of physicians' attitudes. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, Mar. 1999;5(2), pp61-66.

Chiropractic Research Review

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