Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 22, Issue 11, pp 1500–1505

Understanding Patient Preference for Integrative Medical Care: Results from Patient Focus Groups

  • Anne M. McCaffrey
  • Guy F. Pugh
  • Bonnie B. O’Connor
Original Article



Integrative medicine (IM), a combination of conventional and complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), has become a popular source of medical care, yet little is known about its use.


To identify the motivations of people who choose IM for their primary care needs.


Qualitative study from focus group data of regular users of IM.


Six focus groups that include a total of 37 regular users of IM who consented to participate in a study of IM use.


Focus group meetings were audiotaped and transcribed verbatim. Qualitative analysis using grounded theory was used to derive the motivations for use of IM.


Participants beliefs include the following: the combination of CAM and conventional medicine is better than either alone; health is a combination of physical, emotional, and spiritual well being; nutrition and lifestyle play a role in wellness; and pharmaceuticals should be avoided except as a last resort. Participants suffer from health problems that are not well treated by conventional medicine. Participants want to discuss CAM with physicians and obtain guidance on its use. Participants want time with their providers, to feel listened to and to have the opportunity for shared decision-making.


Much of what patients are seeking in integrative medical care is likely universally shared: a strong therapeutic relationship with providers who listen and provide time and knowledgeable advice. Users believe a combined approach of CAM and conventional medicine is better than either alone and want to be able to discuss CAM use with their providers.


CAM integrative medicine patient satisfaction therapeutic encounter 


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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anne M. McCaffrey
    • 1
    • 2
  • Guy F. Pugh
    • 1
  • Bonnie B. O’Connor
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Marino Center for Progressive HealthCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.Division for Research and Education in Complementary and Integrative Medical TherapiesHarvard Medical School Osher InstituteBostonUSA
  3. 3.Department of PediatricsBrown Medical SchoolProvidenceUSA

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