From the Physician's Perspective: Integrating Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the United States
The United States is experiencing an increase in the prevalence and influence of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in patient healthcare, reflecting the increasingly positive public and professional attitudes on the use of CAM therapies. Despite the growing presence of CAM in U.S. healthcare, there are still many barriers to integration. This study aims to reveal the attitudes of conventional, integrative and CAM practitioners concerning the major challenges of CAM's integration, explore their proposed solutions, and reveal any discrepancies in these attitudes among different types of practitioners. Twenty-eight practitioners were interviewed on the challenges in the five facets of CAM's integration: integration into hospitals, integration into medical schools, insurance coverage for CAM, licensing & regulation of CAM practitioners, and clinical research in CAM. The overall positive attitudes on the benefits of CAM's integration support previous research on the subject; however, the conventional practitioners were unable to extend these benefits to real-world application, and they were unaware of many of the challenges facing CAM's integration. The CAM practitioners attributed many of the problems facing integration to the inability of CAM's philosophy to comply with the current ideology of medical academia, health insurance model, and laws that govern the licensing and regulation of medical practitioners. The CAM and integrative practitioners perceived there to be a large resistance from conventional practitioners, specifically concerning the integration of CAM into education, providing insurance coverage for CAM, and the licensing and regulation of CAM practitioners. They attributed this to a perceived lack of research on safe and effective treatments in CAM. The conventional practitioner responses reflected this weariness of treatment effectiveness in their responses. However, the CAM and integrative practitioners believed these claims to be largely inaccurate, and constructed by the influence and manipulation of large-scale medical corporations and organizations. The participants believed that more evidence-based research in CAM, and increased public awareness in CAM therapies will force conventional practitioners to increase their knowledge in CAM, helping to alleviate their fears and skepticism of CAM therapies. By easing these concerns, dialogue can occur among practitioners of different modalities that will help to ensure a smooth integration of CAM and will raise the quality of patient healthcare by providing safe and effective resources for alternate forms of treatment.