Hospitals Add Alternative Healthcare Choices

WebMD reported on July 20, 2006 that 25% of US Hospitals now offer what they called, "Complementary and Alternative Medicine Therapies." This information comes from a new survey of nearly 1400 US hospitals showing this trend. Researchers Sita Ananth of Health Forum, an affiliate of the American Hospital Association, and William Martin, PsyD, of the College of Commerce at DePaul University in Chicago, commented, "More and more, patients are requesting care beyond what most consider to be traditional health services, and hospitals are responding to the needs of the communities they serve by offering these therapies."

The article defines Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) as including acupuncture, chiropractic, homeopathy, diet and lifestyle changes, herbal medicine, and massage therapy. However, many inside the chiropractic profession claim chiropractic should not be classified as an "alternative medicine" as it is a separate and unique health profession.

The American Hospital Association conducts this survey every two years. These surveys have shown a huge increase, noting that the percentage of hospitals offering one or more CAM services have increased from 8% in 1998 to 27% in 2005. This trend is most likely in response to consumer requests. In 2002 a survey from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, showed that more than half of Americans thought combining non medical health care with conventional medicine would be helpful.

The researchers found in this most recent study that complimentary and alternative medicine offerings were most common in the Midwest, and less common on the West Coast with the South being the least common areas to offer CAM services in hospitals. The study reported that teaching hospitals had the highest usage with 36% offering these services. This may coincide with the fact that according to a 2004 study more than 75% of medical schools now require a course in CAM.

Interestingly enough, although there is an increased trend toward offering these services, the study noted that most of these CAM services are paid for by the patients themselves as an out-of-pocket medical expense, and not covered by insurance.