Complementary and Alternative Medicine in an Integrated Health Care Delivery System: Users of Chiropractic, Acupuncture, and Massage Services

Complementary and Alternative Medicine in an Integrated  Health Care Delivery System: Users of Chiropractic, Acupuncture, and Massage Services

 

Tracy McCubbin, MD; Karin L Kempe, MD, MPH; Arne Beck, PhD

Perm J 2017;21:16-172 [Full Citation]

https://doi.org/10.7812/TPP/16-172
E-pub: 07/14/2017

ABSTRACT

Introduction: Complementary and alternative medicine research has relied primarily on survey data from community populations rather than from patient populations receiving these services in integrated health care delivery systems (IHDS).
Objectives: To describe patients seeking chiropractic, acupuncture, or massage therapy in a dedicated Center for Complementary Medicine (CCM) within an IHDS.
Methods: Patient surveys at the initial CCM visit included chief complaint, prior treatments, and relief with treatment (0% to 100% relief). A modified Brief Pain Inventory assessed average and current pain (0 = no pain; 10 = unbearable pain) and interference with life domains (1 = does not interfere; 10 = completely interferes). Demographics and CCM provider type were obtained from medical records. Analysis included patients who completed the survey.
Results: Between 2007 and 2014, a total of 27,225 patients sought CCM services (median age = 50 years). Most (62%) were female, and 73% were white. Modalities included chiropractic (66.9%), acupuncture (18.1%), and massage (15.0%). Spine/truncal pain was most commonly reported (70.5%). A majority of patients (59%) saw their physician for their condition, 59% had not used CCM services previously, and 60% received medications for their condition. Mean ratings included pain relief with prior treatment (30.07%, standard deviation [SD] = 27.01%), current pain (4.33, SD = 2.4), and functional impairment ranging from 3.03 (SD = 3.09) for relationships to 5.42 (SD = 3.22) for enjoyment of life.
Conclusion: Spine/truncal pain was the most common complaint and chiropractic the most common modality among patients receiving CCM services in an IHDS. More than one-third of patients self-referred to the CCM.

INTRODUCTION

The use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM),1 including chiropractic, acupuncture, and massage, has become widespread in the US. A 2007 National Health Interview Survey showed 40% of adults (N = 23,393) reporting use of these services in the previous 12 months,1 expenditures of $33.9 billion, and an estimated 354.2 million visits to CAM practitioners.2 This report was based on completed interviews with a response rate of 68%.

A national telephone survey of 1539 adults, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1993, showed that 83% of those using unconventional therapies (now called CAM) for serious conditions also sought care from a medical doctor, but only 28% informed their physician of CAM use.3 Therefore, bringing CAM services into an integrated health care delivery system (IHDS) such as Kaiser Permanente (KP) could be of great value in meeting members’ care needs in a manner that ensures coordination with conventional medical care through the use of a joint electronic medical record (EMR). Moreover, given that lawmakers in states such as Oregon and Washington are recognize acupuncture, chiropractic, naturopathy, and massage as covered services, understanding the demand for such benefits is important to both clinicians and insurers.

Much previous research has focused on utilization of CAM services across a broad spectrum of the population through telephone surveys.3-5 It is unknown if the characteristics of patients seeking CAM therapies in an IHDS would mirror that of the general population. This article describes a large population of insured adults seeking three types of CAM care within a prepaid IHDS during a seven-year period. Unlike the previous surveys about CAM use, we report actual CAM use among a population of patients in an integrated delivery system.

METHODS

Setting

The Centers for Complementary Medicine (CCM) at KP Colorado (KPCO) is a group of CAM clinics in an IHDS that currently serves more than 650,000 members in Colorado. The program was started in 2003 and currently has 5 separate clinics. Four clinics are located in a KPCO medical office building. The fifth clinic is located inside a medical office building adjacent to and owned by KPCO’s main contract hospital. All locations offer acupuncture, chiropractic, and massage therapy. Depending on their benefits, KPCO members have a copay for CCM services (eg, Medicare members with chiropractic benefits comprise approximately 30% of our CCM population) or pay a discounted fee for service.

Center for Complementary Medicine Survey

In 2007, a CCM patient survey was developed and implemented in CCM clinics. Surveys were administered to patients at the first visit to the CCM as part of routine clinical assessment and entered by CCM staff into the EMR. Electronic medical record notes from the first and fifth visits to CCM were routed electronically to the in-basket of the primary care physician (PCP) to facilitate communication with the PCP and coordination with conventional medical care. These notes provided information that the patient was evaluated in CCM for a specified condition, a summary of the CCM survey, and the treatment course for that condition. If no PCP was assigned, the notes were copied to the CCM Medical Director for review. This study focused on the initial CCM visit for patients requesting a single modality—chiropractic, acupuncture, or massage—between May 8, 2007, and December 31, 2014. All patients completed the CCM survey at their first visit during this time period.

The survey included the following information: 1) primary reason for the visit; 2) whether the individual had seen or planned to see his or her PCP for his or her condition; 3) current treatments and medications received for this condition (before receiving CCM services), and degree of relief with current treatment (0% relief to 100% relief). In addition, questions adapted from the Brief Pain Inventory (BPI) were used to assess both the sensory dimension of pain and its interference in various dimensions of the patient’s life. These questions include ratings for average pain and current pain (pain ratings ranging from 0 = no pain to 10 = unbearable pain), and the degree to which the condition interfered with general activity, mood, walking ability, normal work, relations with other people, sleep, and enjoyment of life.6 Ratings for these measures of interference in life domains ranged from 0 (does not interfere) to 10 (completely interferes). The BPI was originally introduced in 1982. The Pain Research Group at the University of Wisconsin Medical School in Madison, WI, under the direction of Charles Cleeland, PhD, tested and developed the self-report BPI for measuring cancer pain; they subsequently applied the BPI more broadly to studies of other types of pain (eg, chronic pain, musculoskeletal pain, fibromyalgia) and pain treatment in the US and internationally.6

A copy of the modified CCM survey is provided in the Appendix (available online at: www.thepermanentejournal.org/files/2017/16-172-Appendix.pdf). Additional demographic data on age, sex, self-reported race/ethnicity, and type of CCM clinician (massage therapist, acupuncturist, chiropractor) were obtained from a virtual data warehouse populated by EMR data from the IHDS.

The KPCO institutional review board reviewed and approved this study.

Analysis

The CCM survey data as well as CCM clinician specialty and patient age, sex, and race/ethnicity were extracted from KPCO’s EMR and entered into a database (SAS 9.4, SAS Institute, Cary, NC). The primary analyses were descriptive (frequencies, percentages, means, medians), including patient demographics, reason for visit, past treatments, treatment modality, pain intensity, and physical and social/emotional functional impairment.

RESULTS

There were 27,225 unique, initial CCM visits with an associated CCM questionnaire between May 8, 2007, and December 31, 2014. Demographic data for this patient cohort are shown in Table 1. Most patients seeking CCM services were female (62%) and white (73%), with a median age of 50 years. This population was somewhat older and contained a higher proportion of females than the overall KPCO member population, which has an average age of 45 years and is 53% female. The racial/ethnic distribution of patients seeking CCM services was comparable to the larger KPCO adult membership.

Table 2 shows the primary reason patients sought CCM services by treatment modality. Most patients sought chiropractic services (66.9%), followed by acupuncture (18.1%) and massage therapy (15.0%). Spine/truncal pain was reported most often as the primary reason for the visit, regardless of treatment modality (70.5%).

Fifty-nine percent of patients surveyed reported having seen their PCP for their condition before the initial CCM visit, and 59% of patients indicated that they had not used other CAM services before their CCM visit. In addition, 60% reported receiving over-the-counter and/or prescription medications for their condition.

Patients at their initial CCM visit were asked the following question about prior non-CAM treatment: “What percentage describes the relief of your condition with your current treatment?” Using a response scale ranging from 0% for no relief and 100% for complete relief, patients provided an average rating of 30.07% (standard deviation [SD] = 27.01%). Patients were also asked about current pain and functional impairment at their initial CCM visit. On a scale ranging from no pain (0) to unbearable pain (10), the mean rating of current pain was 4.33 (SD = 2.40). Table 3 shows that patients’ ratings of the degree to which their condition interfered with various life domains ranged from a mean of 3.03 (SD = 3.09) for relationships to 5.42 (SD = 3.22) for enjoyment of life.

Complementary and Alternative Medicine in an Integrated  Health Care Delivery System: Users of Chiropractic, Acupuncture, and Massage Services

Complementary and Alternative Medicine in an Integrated  Health Care Delivery System: Users of Chiropractic, Acupuncture, and Massage Services

Complementary and Alternative Medicine in an Integrated  Health Care Delivery System: Users of Chiropractic, Acupuncture, and Massage Services

DISCUSSION

In this study, we describe the use of massage, acupuncture, and chiropractic services as they became available within KPCO in the form of a fee-for-service clinic in an IHDS. Unlike many previous studies based on community surveys, our large dataset was obtained from actual patient visits to the CCM clinic during a seven-year period.

Most of this large population of adult CAM users were older white women, the most frequently used modality was chiropractic, and most patients sought treatment of spine/truncal pain. Most patients (59%) had previously seen their PCP for their condition, and most had not previously used CAM services, but they did report using prescription and/or over-the-counter pain medications.

The KPCO CCM visit volume grew over the study period as additional clinics were added and patient awareness of the program grew, with a substantial minority of patients (41%) self-referring to the CCM. Although most patients indicated that they had not used other CAM services before their CCM visit, we found through an annual postvisit satisfaction survey that patients expressed their willingness to try chiropractic, massage therapy, and/or acupuncture because they were offered within KPCO. In addition, although not tracked formally throughout the study period, we know that physician referrals to the CCM increased during the study period. In the first year of our program, there were no physician referrals, but by 2015, there were approximately 3200 physician referrals. The Mayo Clinic compared physician surveys from 2004 and 2012 and found their physicians developed a more positive attitude toward CAM therapies in that period.7 Our informal discussions with KPCO physicians also suggest a more positive attitude toward CAM therapies over time as the volume of CCM visits increased.

The largest volume of visits to the CCM was for chiropractic care. According to a National Center for Health Statistics report, use of practitioner-based chiropractic manipulation is higher in the Mountain Region of the US at 11.4% compared with the national average of 8.5%.8

In our dataset, 31% of the patients were older than age 65 years, similar to findings from other surveys.3,9-11 In the future, CAM services may play a key role in meeting the needs of our aging population, estimated to reach 20% older than age 65 years by 2030.12

Although most (59%) of the patients had already seen their PCP for their condition, they reported pain and functional impairment in the midrange of these rating scales at the start of CAM therapy. This finding suggests that the CAM modalities that patients chose may address an unmet need for adjunctive care for which patients were willing to pay a copay or out-of-pocket fees. Although we do not know the reasons why the other 41% self-referred without first contacting the primary care office, we believe that understanding why so many patients made this choice may help us improve the care provided for these conditions by the conventional medical system or suggest opportunities to better manage them. Furthermore, our findings indicate that most of the patients did not plan to see their PCP in the future for the same condition or were undecided after their treatment in the CCM. Shifting of services from primary care settings to CAM clinics for patients with musculoskeletal pain may also have cost-savings potential.13 Davis et al14 showed an inverse relation between supply of chiropractors and visits to PCPs because of back and neck pain among 17.7 million Medicare enrollees. They estimated that chiropractic care is associated with 0.37 million fewer visits to PCPs annually at a cost savings of $83.5 million.14

Numerous studies have assessed pain and functional impairment with the BPI across diverse populations (urban vs rural; different nationalities), and medical conditions (cancer, musculoskeletal pain),6,14-16 although fewer studies have focused on the use of the BPI among those seeking or referred for CAM services.17-20 Comparing results from these studies with those from the present study requires caution about the generalizability to subsets of the population of members with different types of pain seeking CAM services in an IHDS. In addition, because we used a modified version of the BPI, caution is further warranted in comparing ratings from this study with others using the BPI. Nevertheless, some of the findings from these studies show comparable pain and functional impairment ratings as well as areas where the findings diverge. The cross-sectional study by Peleg et al20 of 163 Israeli patients visiting a complementary medicine clinic because of pain showed similar ratings of current pain and interference with life domains compared with those of KPCO patients. Vallerand et al21 surveyed 595 residents from urban, suburban, and rural communities and showed pain ratings generally comparable to those reported by KPCO patients. Average pain relief from conventional treatment was rated lower for KPCO patients compared with Israeli patients and compared with patients surveyed by Vallerand et al. However, these patients used a CAM self-treatment regimen that included a wide variety of herbal products and supplements and/or CAM modalities, including but not limited to chiropractic, massage, and acupuncture.21

The primary contribution of this study is that our large dataset was obtained from actual patient visits to dedicated CAM clinics within an IHDS, rather than from population-based estimates of CAM use derived from community surveys, as has been the case with many previous descriptive studies of CAM services. As such, our results are informative regarding the types of pain for which actual patients seek CAM services, and their self-reported degree of pain and functional impairment.

Our study also had limitations. We used descriptive, cross-sectional data to describe the population of patients seeking CAM services during a seven-year period. Although prior research suggests that CAM treatments may be particularly effective in improving clinical outcomes and reducing costs for patients with chronic pain, stress, and/or depressive symptoms who have higher utilization of services, we were unable to evaluate clinical outcomes and track possible cost reductions associated with CCM care.10 We also did not evaluate the impact of multiple other factors that may influence CAM use within an IHDS, including differential copays, geographic distribution, attitudes of referring physicians, or the reasons that patients at the CCM did not seek conventional medical care at their PCP’s office. Although we studied a large cohort of patients seeking CAM services, our results reflect an insured, care-seeking population and may not be applicable to the general population. In addition, because we used a modified version of the BPI, we cannot assume that it had the same validity and reliability as the original form of the instrument. Future research may involve linking our CAM questionnaire data to claims and encounter data on diagnoses, medications, health services utilization, and health care costs for patients at the CCM, and examining the relationship between receipt of CAM services and subsequent changes in pain and functional impairment. Additional analyses could also include case-control studies comparing outcomes for CAM recipients with those of matched controls who do not receive such services (eg, acupuncture or massage therapy for low back pain vs physical therapy, changes in use of narcotics after CAM treatment, impact of CAM on health care utilization and costs for patients with chronic pain).

CONCLUSION

This large study describes 7 years of data from insured adults receiving chiropractic, acupuncture, and massage therapy in a fee-for-service CAM center within an IHDS. The addition of the CCM clinic to the overall health care delivery model ensured that such complementary care was delivered with quality oversight and using a common EMR which provided communication to primary and specialty care clinicians. This study also provides insight into the demographic and clinical characteristics of this population of CAM users; spine/truncal pain was the most common complaint, and chiropractic services the most commonly sought modality. Fully 41% of patients did not see a PCP first for their condition. Those patients who did have initial traditional medical treatment even with clinically significant pain relief (30%) still sought additional CCM services, demonstrating the value of such care to patients with common musculoskeletal complaints.

Disclosure Statement

The author(s) have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

Acknowledgements

We would like to acknowledge Erica Morse, MA, for managing the project and J David Powers, MS, for his assistance with data analysis. We also thank Melissa DePicciotto, Manager of KPCO’s Centers for Complementary Medicine, for providing valuable information to the authors on the Centers for Complementary Medicine program and for their assistance with editing the manuscript.

Kathleen Louden, ELS, of Louden Health Communications provided editorial assistance.

How to Cite this Article

McCubbin T, Kempe KL, Beck A. Complementary and alternative medicine in an integrated health care delivery system: Users of chiropractic, acupuncture, and massage services. Perm J 2017;21:16-172. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7812/TPP/16-172.

References
1.    Barnes PM, Bloom B, Nahin RL. Complementary and alternative medicine use among adults and children: United States, 2007. Natl Health Stat Report 2008 Dec 10;(12):1-23. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/e623942009-001.
    2.    Nahin RL, Barnes PM, Stussman BJ, Bloom B. Costs of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and frequency of visits to CAM practitioners: United States, 2007. Natl Health Stat Report 2009 Jul 30;(18):1-14.
    3.    Eisenberg DM, Kessler RC, Foster C, Norlock FE, Calkins DR, Delbanco TL. Unconventional medicine in the United States. Prevalence, costs, and patterns of use. N Engl J Med 1993 Jan 28;328(4):246-52. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1056/nejm199301283280406.
    4.    Eisenberg DM, Davis RB, Ettner SL, et al. Trends in alternative medicine use in the United States, 1990-1997: Results of a follow-up national survey. JAMA 1998;280(18):1569-75. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.280.18.1569.
    5.    Tindle HA, Davis RB, Phillips RS, Eisenberg DM. Trends in use of complementary and alternative medicine by US adults: 1997-2002. Altern Ther Health Med 2005 Jan-Feb;11(1):42-9.
    6.    Cleeland CS. The brief pain inventory: User guide [Internet]. Houston, TX: Charles S Cleeland; 2009 [cited 2017 March 20]. Available from: www.mdanderson.org/documents/Departments-and-Divisions/Symptom-Research/BPI_UserGuide.pdf.
    7.    Wahner-Roedler DL, Lee MC, Chon TY, Cha SS, Loehrer LL, Bauer BA. Physicians’ attitudes toward complementary and alternative medicine and their knowledge of specific therapies: 8-year follow-up at an academic medical center. Complement Ther Clin Pract 2014 Feb;20(1):54-60. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctcp.2013.09.003.
    8.    Peregoy JA, Clarke TC, Jones LI, Stussman BJ, Nahin RL. Regional variation in use of complementary health approaches by US adults. NCHS Data Brief 2014 Apr;(146):1-8.
    9.    Mertz JA. Alternative medicine use in older Americans. J Am Geriatr Soc 2001 Nov;49(11):1577. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1532-5415.2001.4911262.x.
    10.    McMahan S, Lutz R. Alternative therapy use among the young-old (ages 65 to 74): An evaluation of the MIDUS database. J Appl Gerontol 2004 Jun;23(2):91-103. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0733464804265604.
    11.    Arcury TA, Suerken CK, Grzywacz JG, Bell RA, Lang W, Quandt SA. Complementary and alternative medicine use among older adults: Ethnic variation. Ethn Dis 2006 Summer;16(3):723-31.
    12.    Ortman JM, Velkoff VA, Hogan H. An aging nation: The older population in the United States—current population reports [Internet]. Washington, DC: US Department of Commerce—Economics and Statistics Administration; 2014 May [cited 2017 Jun19]. Available from: www.census.gov/prod/2014pubs/p25-1140.pdf.
    13.    Sarnat RL, Winterstein J. Clinical and cost outcomes of an integrative medicine IPA. J Manipulative Physiol Ther 2004 Jun;27(5):336-47. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jmpt.2004.04.007.
    14.    Davis MA, Yakusheva O, Gottlieb DJ, Bynum JP. Regional supply of chiropractic care and visits to primary care physicians for back and neck pain. J Am Board Fam Med 2015 Jul-Aug;28(4):481-90. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3122/jabfm.2015.04.150005.
    15.    Kumar SP. Utilization of brief pain inventory as an assessment tool for pain in patients with cancer: A focused review. Indian J Palliat Care 2011 May;17(2):108-15. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4103/0973-1075.84531.
    16.    Tan G, Jensen MP, Thornby JI, Shanti BF. Validation of the brief pain inventory for chronic nonmalignant pain. J Pain 2004 Mar;5(2):133-7. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpain.2003.12.005.
    17.    Keller S, Bann CM, Dodd SL, Schein J, Mendoza TR, Cleeland CS. Validity of the brief pain inventory for use in documenting the outcomes of patients with noncancer pain. Clin J Pain 2004 Sep-Oct;20(5):309-18. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1097/00002508-200409000-00005.
    18.    Berman RL, Iris MA, Bode R, Drengenberg C. The effectiveness of an online mind-body intervention for older adults with chronic pain. J Pain 2009 Jan;10(1):68-79. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpain.2008.07.006.
    19.    Yeh CH, Chien LC, Chiang YC, Huang LC. Auricular point acupressure for chronic low back pain: A feasibility study for 1-week treatment. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 2012;2012:383257. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1155/2012/383257.
    20.    Peleg R, Liberman O, Press Y, Shvartzman P. Patients visiting the complementary medicine clinic for pain: A cross sectional study. BMC Complement Altern Med 2011 May 5;11:36. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/1472-6882-11-36.
    21.    Vallerand AH, Fouladbakhsh JM, Templin T. The use of complementary/alternative medicine therapies for the self-treatment of pain among residents of urban, suburban, and rural communities. Am J Public Health 2003 Jun;93(6):923-5. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2105/ajph.93.6.923.

Subscriptions

The Permanente Journal (ISSN 1552-5767) is published quarterly by The Permanente Press. Journal subscriptions are entered for the calendar year. Advance payment in US dollars is required.

Circulation

25,000 print readers per quarter, 7,628 eTOC readers, and in 2016, 1.4 million page views on TPJ articles in PubMed from a broad international readership.

Letters

Articles, editorials, letters to the editor, and other material represent the opinion of the authors. Send your comments to permanente.journal@kp.org.


Copyright 2017 The Permanente Journal - Kaiser Permanente. All Rights Reserved.