These days, telling a coworker or friend that you're off to your acupuncture appointment is unlikely to generate a suspicious look. In 1998, a survey published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 42 percent of the population was using some sort of alternative and complementary medicine, and it's probable that these therapies are even more popular today.
Despite the widespread use of non-traditional therapies such as acupuncture, herbal remedies, prayer, guided imagery and magnet therapy, few people are sharing their use of these therapies with their conventional healthcare providers. Patients tend not to volunteer the information, and doctors don't ask. This lapse in communication may not only prevent patients from getting the best care possible though the integration of different approaches, it can sometimes threaten a patient's health.
Adam Perlman, MD, MPH, is the medical director for the Siegler Center for Integrative Medicine at the St. Barnabas Ambulatory Care Center in Livingston, New Jersey and executive director for the Institute for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. Below, Dr. Perlman discusses why doctors and patients need to have an open dialogue about complementary medicinešand offers ways to bridge the communication gap.