Physicians fail to ask patients about complementary medicine despite demand

Even though proponents boast its benefits, complementary medicine often is not the topic of discussion between physicians and patients, according to a new report by QuantiaMD. In fact, more than one-third (37 percent) of physicians reported they rarely or never ask patients about their use of complementary or alternative medicine, and 39 percent of physicians said they rarely ask about their spiritual beliefs.

So it might not be surprising that nearly half of the surveyed doctors (48 percent) said that half of their patients do not trust the U.S. healthcare system, suggesting that there may be communication gaps about spiritual and cultural implications of complementary or alternative medicine.

"Every [p]hysician needs the appropriate knowledge and tools to address culturally-related beliefs and behaviors, such as traditional diets or use of alternative medicine, when treating their multicultural patients," Elena V. Rios, president and CEO of the National Hispanic Medical Association and president of the National Hispanic Health Foundation, said in a press release today.

However, another survey last month by the American Hospital Association's Health Forum and the Samueli Institute found that hospitals are offering more complementary and alternative medical services these days, tripling in the past decade. Forty-two percent of hospitals reported that they provide such services, fueled by patient demand.

Hospitals that offer more complementary medicine report better patient satisfaction and even argue improved outcomes such as shorter length of stay, according to a Kaiser Health News article.

"We're looking for ways to improve the patient experience and to improve outcomes," said Todd Linden, president and chief executive of Grinnell (Iowa) Regional Medical Center, about the organization's comprehensive integrative therapy program. For example, patients waiting for surgery can get a 10- to 15-minute comfort massage beforehand. "IVs go in easier, people come out of anesthesia quicker and some physicians say their patients have less pain," he said.

Linden also said these complementary alternative services can help shorten hospital stay, which pads a hospital's bottom line.

For more information:
- read the press release
- read the Kaiser Health article

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