A recent study in the Netherlands, investigating the cost-effectiveness of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) when compared to conventional medicine, has concluded that patients whose GP has additional CAM training have 0-30% lower health-care costs and mortality rates than those who did not have the additional training. The percentage was dependent on age groups and the type of CAM involved.
The research was carried out by obtaining data from a Dutch health insurer which included information on healthcare costs, dates of births and deaths, gender and postcodes of patients over a five year period. Data from 1,913 conventional GPs were compared with data from 79 GPs with additional CAM training in acupuncture, homeopathy and anthroposophical medicine.
The conclusions suggested that the lower costs resulted from fewer hospital stays and fewer drugs being prescribed. Researchers believe that possible explanations for this are either because people who are more reluctant to have medical interventions are expected to choose CAM or because the GP’s with CAM training are less likely to over-treat patients and more likely to focus on preventive and curative health promotion.
As health economists have generally ignored CAM as an area of research, despite clinical experiences and empirical research which has suggested its cost-effectiveness, it is hoped that this new study will yield further investigation into this much needed area.
(Department of Economics, Tilburg University, The Netherlands)
This article was first published by the ARH in the Septemeber 2011 issue 16 of 'Homeopathy Healthy Medicine'.
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