The attraction to complementary medicine often reflects patients’ preferences for a holistic approach to health, says Dr. Ahn, or it may emanate from traditions carried with them from their country of origin. “Once you do understand their reasons for using CAM, then the patient-physician relationship can be significantly strengthened,” he says. With nearly two-thirds of Americans using some form of CAM, hospitalists need to engage in this dialogue.
Dr. Rakel agrees understanding patient culture is vital to uncovering useful information. “Most clinicians would agree that if we can match a therapy to the patient culture and belief system, we are more likely to get buy-in from the patient,” he says.
Dr. Mehta also is a clinical instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. He teaches his residents to educate themselves about credentialing, certification, and licensure of complementary providers. He also asks them to maintain an open mind. He says the most important preparation for hospitalists right now is to help educate their patients to be more proactive in their own healthcare. “An engaged patient,” he says, “is better than a disengaged patient.” TH
Gretchen Henkel is a freelance writer based in California.
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