Can we rapidly identify traditional, complementary and alternative medicine users in the primary care encounter? A RIOS Net study. Academic Article uri icon


  • Pressed for time to address competing clinical demands within the brief clinical encounter, primary care clinicians often rely on observations of patients to select topics to address. Use of traditional, complementary, or alternative medicine (TM/CAM) may be an important topic for discussion with a patient, but identification of patients using TM/CAM is problematic. We conducted this study to determine if observable characteristics--among southwestern Hispanic and Native American persons--might suggest to the clinician that a patient is likely to use TM/CAM.A combination of clinic staff focus groups, patient and clinician interviews, and a clinician focus group was used to explore possible predictors of TM/CAM use among primary care patients in practices serving predominantly Hispanic and Native American communities.No easily observable characteristics were identified that clinicians might use to predict TM/CAM use in their patients. Less readily observable characteristics--identification with culture, family of origin, health condition--were more likely to be associated with TM/CAM use, but not infallibly so.Rather than attempt to predict TM/CAM use by an individual patient, clinicians may be better served by assuming its use by all, by applying strategies for rapid and effective communications with patients about the topic, by selecting which patients to discuss TM/CAM use with based on clinical circumstances, and/or by gathering information about TM/CAM use as part of routine initial database development.

publication date

  • January 1, 2010