Seniors Not Discussing CAM Use With Their Doctors

Posted March 23, 2007 by Acupuncture & Massage College & filed under Herbs & Medicine


Among people age 50 or older, 69 percent of those who use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) do not discuss it with their doctors, according to a new study conducted by AARP and the NIH National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). The telephone survey, administered to a nationally representative group of 1,559 people age 50 or older, examined patient-doctor communication practices regarding CAM use.

Reasons for non-communication vary. Respondents most often did not discuss their CAM use with doctors because the physicians never asked (42 percent), they did not know that they should (30 percent), believed that their doctor wouldn’t know anything or would be dismissive (29 percent), or there was not enough time during the office visit (19 percent). “We know that people 50 and older tend to be high users of complementary and alternative medicine, but this study was the first to explore gaps in communications regarding the use of CAM between patients and their physicians,” said Cheryl Matheis, AARP Director of Health Strategies.

The topics most often discussed with doctors were the effectiveness of a CAM therapy (67 percent), what to use (64 percent), how a CAM therapy might interact with other medications or treatments received (60 percent), advice on whether to pursue a CAM therapy (60 percent), and safety of a CAM therapy (57 percent). When those surveyed did speak to their doctors, conversation tended to focus on effectiveness, safety and potential interactions. Safety and potential interactions are important due to the high-incidence of polypharmacy among surveyed seniors.

Of the individuals surveyed, 63 percent have used one or more CAM therapies, often for mixed reasons including treatment of specific conditions (66 percent), overall wellness (65 percent), conventional treatment supplement (45 percent), and illness prevention (42 percent). “An open dialogue between consumers and their physicians is critical to ensuring safe and appropriate integrated care,” said Margaret A. Chesney, Ph.D., NCCAM’s Deputy Director. For more information about CAM for therapeutic and preventative therapy contact Dr. Richard Browne at (305) 595-9500.

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