This survey evaluated the attitude of healthcare professionals toward the use of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) to improve current care. A questionnaire on the current practice and opinions about SCAM use was sent to healthcare professionals in Amsterdam UMC, who work for the department of hematology or oncology. Oncologists, hematologists, residents, (specialized) nurses, dieticians, (hospital)pharmacists, and pharmacy technicians were asked to participate.
Among eligible healthcare professionals, 77 responded to the questionnaire (34%). Overall, 87% of healthcare
professionals indicated it is important to be aware of their patient’s SCAM use, and all find the potential of drug–herb interactions important. However, more than half of the healthcare professionals inquire about the patient’s SCAM use infrequently. In addition, only 15% of the healthcare professionals stated they had sufficient knowledge of SCAM to advise patients on their use of SCAM.
The authors concluded that healthcare professionals are aware of the potential risks of SCAM use in combination with anti-cancer treatment. However, SCAM use is not yet discussed with every patient. This may be due to healthcare professionals’ lack of knowledge about SCAM.
This survey would in itself be fairly irrelevant; it employed only a tiny convenience sample and its findings cannot be generalized. Yet, it produced results that have been shown dozens of times before, and it might therefore be a good idea to remind ourselves of their relevance and implications.
- Patients use SCAM whether we want it or not.
- Contrary to what is often said, SCAM is not harmless.
- Therefore conventional healthcare professionals need to know about their patients’ SCAM use.
- To find out, healthcare professionals need to ask specific questions about SCAM.
- Next, they must advise their patients responsibly (this is an ethical obligation, not a choice).
- In order to do that they need to learn the essentials about SCAM.
- Failing to do this means failing their patients.