Results from the random telephone survey of 1,000 Americans were released Friday, Sept. 18, at a Stanford conference attended by some 500 physicians and other health professionals. The researchers disclosed that 69 percent of survey respondents had used some form of complementary and/or alternative medicine (CAM) in the past year. Respondents had also seen MDs an average of four times yearly.
"Based on this and other details, we are getting a clearer picture of how CAM and traditional medicine are becoming interwoven," said William Haskell, PhD, a Stanford professor of medicine and cardiovascular research. Dr. Haskell is the principal investigator for the Stanford component of the National Institutes of Health's Office of Alternative Medicine study evaluating the effectiveness of various CAM techniques.
More than 56 percent of those participating in the recent telephone survey said they believed their health plan should cover CAM. On average, respondents said they would be willing to spend an additional $15.41 per month for health insurance for complementary medical services such as chiropractic, massage or acupuncture.
"What we see from this current survey and many other indicators is that people generally want to take control of their own health, using those services they find most effective," Haskell said. "This places responsibility on both traditional care providers and health educators to ensure that responsible information and advice is available to patients."
Health educator Wes Alles, PhD, director of SCRDP's Health Improvement Program, presented the data at the Sept. 18 conference, "Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Scientific Evidence and Steps toward Integration."
"The public doesn't choose between alternative and traditional medicine," Dr. Alles said in describing the new findings. "Rather, they see the options in a single toolbox and want to choose what works best for them instead of being restricted by arbitrary definitions."
The study showed that while 55 percent of alternative medicine users had reduced the traditional medical services they used, the rest said their use of CAM had no effect on their visits to traditional physicians. Seventy-three percent of men and 87 percent of women in the study said they have a medical doctor they use most often for routine care.