Guidelines to assessing patients' use of complementary/alternative medicine

  • Ask patients in a non-judgmental, open-minded way about unconventional medical practices (can be asked after "medications" in the medical history).
    "A lot of my patients use other forms of treatment, like home remedies, herbs, or acupuncture, that can be helpful. Besides the medications that you mentioned, have you used any other types of therapy?"

  • Check to see whether alternative therapies are safe and look for any interactions with medications.

  • Negotiate the use of alternative therapies along with standard medicine when safe and important to the patient, and discuss reasons to discontinue any dangerous ones.
    "Saw Palmetto does seem to help some patients with prostate enlargement and has no problems with any of your medications. It's fine to keep using it, but let me know if you're not better and we can talk about some other medication."

  • Recommend alternative medicines that are safe and have proven efficacy for patients who prefer them.

  • Go over with patients how they are using their conventional medication to make sure it is appropriate.
    "Could you explain to me exactly how you've been using the cream that I prescribed? I want to make sure it's going to work well for you."