Ask your patients about their use of complementary and alternative medicine
On this page
- What is complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)?
- Why should I ask my patients about their CAM use?
- How can I find the time to discuss CAM with my patients?
- With so little information available about most CAM therapies, what can I tell my patients?
- Federal Resources for Providers
- Resources for Patients
Did you know that almost two-thirds of people aged 50 and older are using some form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)? According to a recent survey* less than one-third of those people talk with their providers about CAM use.
What is complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)?
CAM is a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine. CAM includes such products and practices as herbal supplements, meditation, chiropractic manipulation, and acupuncture.
Why should I ask my patients about their CAM use?
- Most patients do not proactively disclose use of CAM to their physicians.
- Patients with chronic and acute medical conditions--including cancer, diabetes, back pain, and depression--turn to CAM in large numbers.**
- As more patients use CAM therapies, you need a full picture of all conventional and CAM practices they are using so that you can effectively manage their care.
How can I find the time to discuss CAM with my patients?
- Include a question about CAM use on medical history forms.
- Ask your patients to bring a list of all therapies they use, including prescription, over-the-counter, herbal therapies, and other CAM practices.
- Have your nurse, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant initiate the conversation.
With so little information available about most CAM therapies, what can I tell my patients?
- You can refer your patients to credible, Federal resources to get evidence-based information and patient education materials.You do not need to know everything about all CAM treatments.
- Rigorous scientific research on CAM is taking place at major academic and medicalinstitutions throughout the United States.
Federal Resources for Providers
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
CAM on PubMed
Journal citations specific to CAM:
Online Continuing Education Series
Video lectures available for CME/CEU credits:
Resources for Patients
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine:
Toll-free clearinghouse: 1-888-644-6226
This publication is not copyrighted and is in the public domain. Duplication is encouraged.
NCCAM has provided this material for your information. It is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your primary health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your health care provider. The mention of any product, service, or therapy is not an endorsement by NCCAM.
NCCAM Publication No. D349
Created: January 2007
Note: The PDF file requires a viewer such as Adobe Reader, which you can download free of charge from the Adobe Web site.