According to a national consumer survey conducted by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and AARP, almost two-thirds of people age 50 or older are using some form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), yet less than one-third of these CAM users talk about it with their providers.
NCCAM, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has launched Time to Talk, an educational campaign to encourage patients and their health care providers to openly discuss the use of CAM.
The NCCAM/AARP survey indicated that some of the most common reasons this doctor-patient dialogue about CAM does not occur were: There was not enough time during the office visit; the physician never asked; they did not know they should discuss CAM.
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.
The Time to Talk campaign is aimed at ensuring safe, coordinated care among all conventional and CAM therapies. Talking allows for integrated care and 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 appropriate 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.”
NCCAM’s Time to Talk campaign encourages patients to tell their providers about CAM use and providers to ask about it by offering tools and resources - such as wallet cards, posters, and tip sheets - all of which are available for free on the NCCAM Web site (http://www.nccam.nih.gov) or can be ordered from NCCAM’s information Clearinghouse (1-888-644-6226).
For more information on Time to Talk, to order or download materials, or to read the full NCCAM/AARP report on CAM use communication, please visit nccam.nih.gov/timetotalk/.
“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.”
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