A survey of physicians found that most consider acupuncture to be more effective than any other form of complementary and alternative medicine currently practiced in the United States. The survey has also revealed deep divisions on the perceived impact of CAM on the quality of health care in the United States. Despite these beliefs, a majority of doctors have recommended some form of alternative medicine to their patients in the past, and an equal number feel the National Institutes of Health should continue to fund research on alternative medicine.
The survey was conducted by HCD Research, a New Jersey-based marketing and research firm, and the New York-based Louis Finkelstein Institute, over a two-day period in September 2005. A total of 873 physicians participated in the survey.
In addition to questions on the overall effect of alternative medicine on American health care, respondents were asked to rate the effectiveness of 12 forms of CAM (acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine, aromatherapy, biofield therapies, chiropractic, dietary supplements, electromagnetic field therapies, homeopathy, hypnosis, massage therapy, mind-body interventions, and naturopathy) from two perspectives: both as a stand alone therapy, and when used as a complement to conventional medical treatment. Each form was rated on a seven-point scale, with seven considered "highly effective."
Physicians were almost equally divided in their beliefs on alternative medicine. While 39 percent believed alternative medicine had a positive effect on the quality of health care in the U.S., 40 percent believed it had a negative effect; the remainder thought alternative medicine had no affect on the quality of health care.
A slight majority of physicians believed alternative medicine to be beneficial to their patients. Fifty-one percent stated that alternative medicine was "usually helpful" or "helpful to patients in some circumstances." However, 28 percent believed that alternative medicine could be harmful to some degree, and another 15 percent attributed the helpful effects of alternative medicine to the placebo effect.
Most physicians appeared comfortable recommending alternative medicine to their patients. In fact, 65 percent of the respondents reported recommending alternative medicine as a complement to their medical treatment at some time, and when asked "Are there any conditions under which you would advise a patient to use complementary medicine?", 63 percent responded, "Yes."
In terms of individual therapies, acupuncture received the highest rating of any CAM therapy in the survey. Sixty percent of those surveyed believed acupuncture to be effective to some extent, including 10 percent who thought it was "highly effective." Massage therapy ranked second at 58 percent, followed by mind-body interventions. When viewed as a complement to conventional medical treatments, acupuncture again received the highest ratings of any form of CAM; 65 percent of the physicians believed it to be an effective complement to some degree.