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The Rise of Complementary Therapy in Hospitals

“Providing quality care is part of the culture and mission of every hospital. The rise in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) reflects the continued effort on the part of hospitals and caregivers to broaden the vital services they provide to patients. Hospitals have long known that what they do to treat and heal involves more than just medications and procedures. It is about using all of the art and science of medicine to restore the patient as fully as possible and to ease their suffering. Therapies used in Oriental medicine, biofeedback and other alternatives to traditional Western medicine have provided enormous benefit to many patients.” Nancy Foster Vice President for Quality and Patient Safety American Hospital Association Washington, DC

In 2010 the American Hospital Associations Health Forum in conjunction with the Samueli Institute carried out the forth Complementary and Alternative Medicine Survey of Hospitals. The results show some interesting trends in the use of these therapies (referred to as CAM).

Of the 714 interviewed, 42% offer CAM therapies in the Hospital. The first trend to note is the location of these hospitals, 72% are urban medium to large hospitals which is not surprising due to the probable demand for such services in the Cities, and the availability of CAM providers.

Also interesting is the large proportion of teaching hospitals (47% of the sample) who offer CAM, disproportionate to the total number of US teaching hospitals (20% of all US hospitals are teaching hospitals). This shows a much greater propensity for teaching hospitals to offer CAM and this reflects the 43% of medical schools reportedly offering CAM in their curricula in 2010 (according to Association of American Medical Colleges). There appears to be growing interest in the new generation of physicians who may also be influenced by growing consumer interest.

Patient demand drives why hospitals offer the services in the first place with 85% of hospitals saying it is an important reason, however 70% claim the therapies are clinically effective and 58% offer it as part of their wider organizational mission to treat the ‘whole person’. This shows that many hospitals are increasingly open to the growing statistical evidence that CAM therapies work.

In deciding which therapies to include, 78% of the hospitals select therapies due to patient demand, 74% based on evidence of efficacy. These statistics are very important in showing consumer demand is playing an important part in the growing trend of CAM services in hospitals, but also in what therapies are actually selected for promotion in the hospital setting.

Reiki is one of the top six inpatient modalities offered, with 21% of hospitals who offered CAM offering Reiki.

This report is a heartening finding as it shows the growing support in hospitals for complementary therapies, especially the growing trend of teaching hospitals to introduce their physicians to wider options than western medicine. It offers an optimistic view of a more inclusive future in medicine where all methodologies will be considered, but more importantly the actual patient will be more empowered to make appropriate choices.

For the full report:

photo credit: NTNUmedicine Toril Skandsen og Anne Vik via photopin (license)


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