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Ostermaier, Agnes; Barth, Niklas and Linde, Klaus (2020): How German general practitioners justify their provision of complementary and alternative medicine. A qualitative study. In: BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapie, Vol. 20, 111: pp. 1-8 [PDF, 591kB]


Background: Many German general practitioners (GPs) use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in their daily work although most CAM procedures are controversial from an academic point of view. Objective: We aimed to investigate how GPs justify their use of CAM. Methods: We performed semi-structured, individual face-to-face interviews with 20 purposively sampled, experienced GPs providing primary care within the framework of the German statutory health insurance system. A grounded theory approach was used for data analysis. Results: All GPs participating in this study used at least some CAM in their clinical practice. Participants did not have any major conflicts when justifying their use of CAM therapies. Important arguments justifying CAM provision were: using it as a supplementary tool to conventional medicine; the feeling that evidence and science leave many problems in primary care unanswered; a strong focus on helping the individual patient, justifying the use of procedures not based on science for therapeutic and communicative purposes; a strong belief in one’s own clinical experience; and appreciation of placebo effects. In general, participants preferred CAM therapies which seemed at least somewhat plausible to them and which they could provide in an authentic manner. Conclusions: Our results suggest that many German GPs integrate CAM treatments in their routine primary carework without perceiving any major internal conflicts with professional ideals.

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