Patients are often reluctant to discuss the use of CAM with their physicians for fear of being rebuked or dismissed. Many physicians view alternative-based therapies as "quackery" and adopt an attitude of "semi-indulgent contempt," as described by one physician. Further complicating matters is the relative lack of practitioner knowledge and training on CAM modalities. Nudged forward by patient demand, this view is clearly changing and now more than 70 medical schools and 45 medical centers, including The Mayo Clinic and The Cleveland Clinic, have adopted integrative and alternative medical centers.
As patient awareness of health and disease prevention has grown, so too has their interest in alternatives to traditional therapeutic disease-based options. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) defines Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) as "a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not currently part of conventional medicine." This may soon change with new health care legislation on the horizon.
Over the past 10 years, the therapeutic options afforded by CAM have blossomed into a $45 billion industry. Of this, $12 billion has been spent on CAM health practitioners including chiropractors, acupuncturists and massage therapists. The remaining $33 billion is spent on stress reduction techniques including yoga and massage as well as on dietary supplements, primarily fish oil, glucosamine and echinacea.
In general, approximately 11 percent of out-of-pocket spending on health care in the United States is spent on CAM modalities, a number that has opened the eyes of many non-believers.