Use of National Consumer Survey Data to Explore Perceptions of Complementary and Alternative Medicine

  • Alina Cernasev The University of Tennessee Health Science Center
  • Basma Goma University of Minnesota, College of Pharmacy
  • Keri Hager University of Minnesota, College of Pharmacy
  • Lawrence Brown Chapman University, Office of Provost
  • Jon Schommer University of Minnesota, College of Pharmacy
Keywords: Complementary alternative medicine, health care consumer, pharmacy, pharmacist


Background: Although Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) has been the standard of therapy in Asia for centuries, it started receiving more attention in the U.S. in the last three decades.

Objectives: The primary study objective was to explore individuals' perspectives of CAM. A secondary objective was to describe individuals' perceptions of pharmacists’ roles in facilitating their use of these services and products.

Methods: Data were obtained from the 2015 and 2016 National Consumer Surveys on the Medication Experience and Pharmacist Roles. Data were collected from adults residing in the United States via on-line, self-administered surveys coordinated by Qualtrics Panels between April 28 and June 22, 2015 (n = 26,173) and between March 14 and 30, 2016 (n = 10,500). This study focused on written comments made in the surveys with Content Conventional Analysis applied to the text.   Four researchers were trained to conduct coding to assess inter-judge reliability. The four judges had a high level of agreement which was greater than 0.95 for category type.

Results: Out of a total of 36,673 respondents, 80% (29,426) submitted written comments at the end of the survey. Of these, 2,178 comments were about medications or health and 170 (8%) comments specifically about CAM, of which 136 (6%) were usable for analysis. Conventional Content Analysis revealed five themes:1)The role of pharmaceutical and insurance companies in CAM; 2) Overuse of medications; 3) Physicians can play a role in creating a balance between prescription use and CAM; 4) Individuals believe that CAM is more effective than Western medicines and prefer it; 5) Individuals want pharmacists to have a better understanding of CAM. The results of this study reveal individuals’ opinions regarding how they want CAM to be considered in their interactions with their healthcare team.

Conclusion: Emergent themes suggest that individuals are interested in receiving more professionals’ healthcare to become more knowledgeable about CAM.


Article Type: Original Research

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Submitted: 2019-09-25
Accepted: 2020-06-27
Published: 2020-06-29
Practice-Based Research