Reasons Office-Based Physicians in the United States Recommend Common Complementary Health Approaches to Patients: An Exploratory Study Using a National Survey

Author: Barbara J Stussman1, Richard L Nahin1, Patricia M Barnes2, Remle Scott3, Termeh Feinburg4, Brian W Ward2
1 National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA.
2 National Center for Health Statistics, Hyattsville, MD, USA.
3 Department of Preventive Medicine and Biostatistics, School of Medicine, Uniformed Services University, Bethesda, MD, USA.
4 Kelly Government Solutions, Rockville, MD, USA.
Conference/Journal: J Integr Complement Med
Date published: 2022 May 12
Other: Special Notes: doi: 10.1089/jicm.2022.0493. , Word Count: 339

Objective: To examine the reasons why office-based physicians do or do not recommend four selected complementary health approaches to their patients in the context of the Andersen Behavioral Model. Design: Descriptive estimates of physician-level data from the 2012 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NAMCS) Physician Induction Interview, a nationally representative survey of office-based physicians (N = 5622, weighted response rate = 59.7%). Setting/Location: The United States. Outcome measures: Reasons for the recommendation or lack thereof to patients for: herbs and other non-vitamin supplements, chiropractic/osteopathic manipulation, acupuncture, and mind-body therapies (including meditation, guided imagery, and progressive relaxation). Differences by physician sex and medical specialty were described. Results: For each of the four complementary health approaches, more than half of the physicians who made recommendations indicated that they were influenced by scientific evidence in peer-reviewed journals (ranging from 52.0% for chiropractic/osteopathic manipulation [95% confidence interval, CI = 47.6-56.3] to 71.3% for herbs and other non-vitamin supplements [95% CI = 66.9-75.4]). More than 60% of all physicians recommended each of the four complementary health approaches because of patient requests. A higher percentage of female physicians reported evidence in peer-reviewed journals as a rationale for recommending herbs and non-vitamin supplements or chiropractic/osteopathic manipulation when compared with male physicians (herbs and non-vitamin supplements: 78.8% [95% CI = 72.4-84.3] vs. 66.6% [95% CI = 60.8-72.2]; chiropractic/osteopathic manipulation: 62.3% [95% CI = 54.7-69.4] vs. 47.5% [95% CI = 42.3-52.7]). For each of the four complementary health approaches, a lack of perceived benefit was the most frequently reported reason by both sexes for not recommending. Lack of information sources was reported more often by female versus male physicians as a reason to not recommend herbs and non-vitamin supplements (31.4% [95% CI = 26.8-36.3] vs. 23.4% [95% CI = 21.0-25.9]). Conclusions: There are limited nationally representative data on the reasons as to why office-based physicians decide to recommend complementary health approaches to patients. Developing a more nuanced understanding of influencing factors in physicians' decision making regarding complementary health approaches may better inform researchers and educators, and aid physicians in making evidence-based recommendations for patients.

Keywords: National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey; U.S. physicians; acupuncture; chiropractic; dietary supplements; mind and body.

PMID: 35549394 DOI: 10.1089/jicm.2022.0493