Many patients with chronic pain in managed care do not discuss use of alternative therapies (eg, chiropractic care, acupuncture) with their primary care providers, according to study results published in the American Journal of Managed Care.

In this study, over 6,000 Kaiser Permanente members from 2009–2011 in Oregon and Washington who had ≥3 outpatient visits for chronic pain within 18 months were questioned. Patients completed a survey containing 17 questions about the types of pain experienced, use of acupuncture, chiropractic care, and other alternative and complementary therapies.

Over half (58%) of these patients had used chiropractic care, acupuncture care, or both. Though most of these patients shared this information with their primary care provider, 35% of those who had acupuncture only, and 42% of those who had chiropractic care only did not talk to their providers.

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The study also showed that 66% of patients who received these alternative therapies in 2011 accessed acupuncture through their health plan via a clinician referral or self-referral benefit. Almost half (45%) of patients accessed chiropractic care through their health plan as well. The remaining patients went outside the health plan to receive these services or used a combination of health plan and outside resources.

Study findings highlight the need for better care coordination between patients and physicians, researchers concluded. The study was funded by a grant from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

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