Primary care practitioner perceptions and attitudes of complementary medicine: a content analysis of free-text responses from a survey of non-metropolitan Australian general practitioners
Aim This study examines GP perceptions, attitudes and knowledge of complementary medicine (CM), and to understand contextual factors that influence these perceptions, attitudes and knowledge. Background CM use is increasing, and its influence on primary care becoming increasingly significant. Although general practitioners (GPs) often have central primary care gate-keeper roles within health systems, few studies have looked specifically at GPs' perceptions, attitudes and knowledge of CM. Methods A questionnaire was mailed to all 1486 GPs registered as practicing in non-metropolitan areas of New South Wales. The survey included one free-text qualitative question, where respondents were invited to highlight issues associated with CM in their own words. Free-text responses were analyzed qualitatively using thematic analysis. Findings In total, 585 GPs responded to the survey (adjusted response rate 40.1%), with 152 (26.0%) filling in the free-text question. Central themes which emerged were risk as a primary concern; opposition to, resistance to and the inappropriateness of complementary therapies; struggles with complexity and ambivalent tolerance. Conclusion GPs in Australia have a wide variety of perceptions toward CM. A minority of GPs have absolute views on CM, with most GPs having numerous caveats and qualifications of individual CM. Efficacy is only one aspect of CM critically evaluated by GPs when gauging support for individual therapies – risk, alignment with medical principles and an openness to exploring new avenues of treatment where others have failed, all appear to be equally important considerations when GPs form their views around CM.
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