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Fam Pract. 2006 Feb;23(1):116-24. Epub 2005 Aug 22.

Health status and health care utilisation of patients in complementary and conventional primary care in Switzerland--an observational study.

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Clinical Epidemiology and HTA, University of Bern, Institute for Evaluative Research in Orthopaedic Surgery, Bern, Switzerland.



The study is part of a nationwide evaluation of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in primary care in Switzerland.


Patient health status with respect to demographic attributes such as gender, age, and health care utilisation pattern was studied and compared with conventional primary care.


The study was performed as a cross-sectional survey including 11932 adult patients seeking complementary or conventional primary care. Patients were asked to document their self-perceived health status by completing a questionnaire in the waiting room. Physicians were performing conventional medicine and/or various forms of complementary primary care such as homeopathy, anthroposophic medicine, neural therapy, herbal medicine, or traditional Chinese medicine. Additional information on patient demographics and yearly consultation rates for participating physicians was obtained from the data pool of all Swiss health insurers. These data were used to confirm the survey results.


We observed considerable and significant differences in demographic attributes of patients seeking complementary and conventional care. Patients seeking complementary care documented longer lasting and more severe main health problems than patients in conventional care. The number of previous physician visits differed between patient groups, which indicates higher consumption of medical resources by CAM patients.


The study supports the hypothesis of differences in socio-demographic and behavioural attributes of patients seeking conventional medicine or CAM in primary care. The study provides empirical evidence that CAM users are requiring more physician-based medical services in primary care than users of conventional medicine.

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