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Ann Fam Med. 2009 Mar-Apr;7(2):139-47. doi: 10.1370/afm.947.

'They don't ask me so I don't tell them': patient-clinician communication about traditional, complementary, and alternative medicine.

Author information

1
First Choice Community Healthcare, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87105, USA. bshelley@salud.unm.edu

Abstract

PURPOSE:

Although high rates of traditional medicine and complementary and alternative medicine (TM/CAM) use have been well documented, there has been less attention to the factors influencing communication between patients and their primary care clinicians about TM/CAM. Such communication can be important in anticipating possible drug-herb interactions and in assuring agreement about therapeutic plans.

METHODS:

We used sequential, multistage, qualitative methods, including focus groups, in-depth interviews, and a video vignette, to explore communication about TM/CAM between patients and their primary care clinicians. The study was conducted in RIOS Net (Research Involved in Outpatient Settings Network), a Southwestern US practice-based research network, situated largely in Hispanic and American Indian communities where TM/CAM is an important part of self-care.

RESULTS:

One hundred fourteen patients, 41 clinic staff members, and 19 primary care clinicians in 8 clinic sites participated. The degree and nature of TM/ CAM communication is based on certain conditions in the clinical encounter. We categorized these findings into 3 themes: acceptance/nonjudgment, initiation of communication, and safety/efficacy. Perceived clinician receptivity to and initiation of discussion about TM/CAM strongly influenced patients' decisions to communicate; perceived clinician expertise in TM/CAM was less important. Clinicians' comfort with patients' self-care approaches and their level of concern about lack of scientific evidence of effectiveness and safety of TM/CAM influenced their communication about TM/CAM with patients.

CONCLUSIONS:

Specific communication barriers limit patient-clinician communication about TM/CAM. Clinicians who wish to communicate more effectively with their patients about these topics and better integrate the types of care their patients use can change the communication dynamic with simple strategies designed to overcome these barriers.

PMID:
19273869
PMCID:
PMC2653970
DOI:
10.1370/afm.947
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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