Older adults are flocking to integrative medicine, but few discuss their choices with a healthcare provider, a new study finds. Clinicians may want to familiarize themselves with the evidence base for some of these treatments in order to properly advise their patients, researchers say.
Fully 40% of older respondents to a University of Michigan poll on healthy aging said that they use at least one integrative medicine strategy to help relieve troublesome physical or mental health issues, reported researcher Rachael Maciasz, MD, of Michigan Medicine in Ann Arbor, MI. Yet only 18% of respondents — whether they currently use, formerly used or are simply interested in integrative health strategies — have discussed the subject with a clinician, she and her colleagues wrote.
Integrative medicine therapies combine conventional medicine with complementary or alternative treatments. Examples include chiropractic care, massage therapy, acupuncture, meditation and yoga.
Among study respondents who used integrative medicine treatment options, 38% found them to be very beneficial, and 54% said their treatment of choice was somewhat beneficial. Notably, women were more likely to use such options than men, as were adults aged 50 to 64 years when compared with those aged 65 to 80 years old.
Insurance coverage for these strategies is spotty. Only 15% of older adults who said they had an interest in integrative medicine options reported that they were covered to do so. In addition,19% said they have no coverage and two-thirds were not sure whether they are covered.
“Providers may want to acquaint themselves with the level of evidence surrounding the use of each approach for different conditions,” said researcher Jeffrey Kullgren, MD, MPH, also of Michigan Medicine.
He recommended that clinicians turn for information to the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, which provides overviews of evidence for a number of integrative approaches, including massage therapy, meditation and yoga.
Full findings come from the University of Michigan’s National Poll on Healthy Aging.