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Survey explores medical care for children with autism using complementary alternative medicine

In a national survey conducted by the University of Minnesota, primary care physicians report that they are more likely to ask patients with autism about complementary alternative medicine use and desire more CAM education for this population. The study of 539 US physicians explores the attitudes and practices of primary care physicians caring for children with autism using CAM treatments. 

Golnik AE, Ireland M (2009). Complementary Alternative Medicine for Children with Autism: A Physician Survey. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. DOI 10.1007/s10803-009-0714-7

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has launched Time to Talk, an educational campaign to encourage patients—particularly those age 50 or older—and their health care providers to openly discuss the use of 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, such as herbal supplements, meditation, naturopathy, and acupuncture.

According to a national consumer survey conducted by NCCAM and AARP, almost two-thirds of people age 50 or older are using some form of CAM, yet less than one-third of these CAM users talk about it with their providers. The NCCAM/AARP survey revealed some reasons why this doctor-patient dialogue about CAM does not occur. The most common reasons survey respondents cited were

  • That the physician never asked

  • They did not know they should discuss CAM

  • There was not enough time during the office visit.

More than one-half of respondents who had talked about CAM with their physician said they (not their physician) initiated the CAM discussion. The telephone survey was administered to a nationally representative group of 1,559 people age 50 or older.

"In an era of genomics and personalized medicine, we need to remember that a key ingredient to good health care is the dialogue you, as a patient, have with your providers," said Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., NIH Director. "And talking about what CAM therapies you use is an important part of that discussion. This is important for people of all ages."

The Time to Talk campaign is aimed at addressing the need for this dialogue to help ensure safe, coordinated care among all conventional and CAM therapies. Talking not only allows integrated care, it also minimizes risks of interactions with a patient's conventional treatments. When patients tell their providers about their CAM use, they can more effectively manage their health. When providers ask their patients about CAM use, they can ensure that they are fully informed and can help patients make wise health care decisions.

"As frequent users of CAM, people 50 and older need to understand the importance of discussing CAM use with their providers to ensure coordinated, safe care. Simply put, it's time to talk," said Josephine P. Briggs, M.D., NCCAM Director. "Giving your health care providers a full picture of what you do to manage your health helps you stay in control."

Patient Tips for Discussing CAM with Providers

  • When completing patient history forms, be sure to include all therapies and treatments you use. Make a list in advance.

  • Tell your health care providers about all therapies or treatments-including over-the-counter and prescription medicines, as well as herbal and dietary supplements.

  • Take control. Don't wait for your providers to ask about your CAM use.

  • If you are considering a new CAM therapy, ask your health care providers about its safety, effectiveness, and possible interactions with medicines (both prescription and over-the-counter).

Provider Tips for Discussing CAM with 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 medical staff initiate the conversation.

Source National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) 6 June 2008


Elderly Not Discussing Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use with Doctors

In spite of the high use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) among people age 50 or older, 69 percent of those who use CAM do not talk to their doctors about it, according to a new survey conducted by AARP and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) at the National Institutes of Health. The survey examined conversations between patients and their physicians regarding CAM use.

Source: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) 18 January 2007

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