Time To Talk About CAM:
Health Care Providers and Patients Need To Ask and Tell
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
(NCCAM), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has launched Time
to Talk, an educational campaign to encourage patients — particularly
those age 50 or older — and their health care providers to
openly discuss the use of complementary and alternative medicine
(CAM ). CAM is a group of diverse medical and health care systems,
practices, and products that are not presently considered to be
part of conventional medicine, such as herbal supplements, meditation,
naturopathy, and acupuncture.
According to a national consumer survey conducted by NCCAM and AARP,
almost two-thirds of people age 50 or older are using some form of
CAM, yet less than one-third of these CAM users talk about it with
their providers. The NCCAM/AARP survey revealed some reasons why
this doctor-patient dialogue about CAM does not occur. The most common
reasons survey respondents cited were
- That the physician never asked
- They did not know they should discuss CAM
- There was not enough time during the office visit.
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.
"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."
The Time to Talk campaign is aimed at addressing the need for
this dialogue to help ensure safe, coordinated care among all conventional
and CAM therapies. Talking not only allows integrated care, it
also 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 wise 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 (nccam.nih.gov)
or can be ordered from NCCAM's information Clearinghouse (1-888-644-6226).
NCCAM is reaching out to professional associations and consumer
organizations to help educate their members about the importance
of this dialogue and the availability of NCCAM's campaign materials.
As the Federal government's lead agency for scientific research
on CAM, NCCAM is committed to educating both consumers and health
care providers about the importance of discussing CAM and providing
evidence-based information to help with health care decision making.
Patient Tips for Discussing CAM with Providers
- When completing patient history forms, be sure to include all
therapies and treatments you use. Make a list in advance.
- Tell your health care providers about all therapies or treatments — including
over-the-counter and prescription medicines, as well as herbal
and dietary supplements.
- Take control. Don't wait for your providers to ask about your
- If you are considering a new CAM therapy, ask your health care
providers about its safety, effectiveness, and possible interactions
with medicines (both prescription and over-the-counter).
Provider Tips for Discussing CAM with Patients
- Include a question about CAM use on medical history forms.
- Ask your patients to bring a list of all therapies they use,
including prescription, over-the-counter, herbal therapies, and
other CAM practices.
- Have your medical staff initiate the conversation.
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/.
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine's
mission is to explore complementary and alternative medical practices
in the context of rigorous science, train CAM researchers, and
disseminate authoritative information to the public and professionals.
For additional information, call NCCAM's Clearinghouse toll-free
at 1-888-644-6226, or visit nccam.nih.gov.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's
Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and
Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting
and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research,
and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both
common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and
its programs, visit www.nih.gov.