Substantial recent research examines the efficacy and biological basis of many types of complementary and alternative (CAM) therapies. However, ?real-world? use of CAM has been largely overlooked, despite calls for CAM therapies to be studied in the manner in which they are practiced and urging high prioritization for research that includes clinical outcomes, cost-effectiveness, and the decision-making process for patients and providers. There is, therefore, heightened need for enriched understanding?particularly given CAM?s growing popularity, which fortunately offers stores of new data for research. Recent studies suggests that Americans seek CAM treatments far more often for chronic musculoskeletal pain (CMP) than for any other condition. Among CAM treatments for CMP, acupuncture and chiropractic (A/C) care are among those with the highest acceptance by physician groups and the best evidence to support their use. Further, recent alarming increases in delivery of opioid treatment and surgical interventions for chronic pain?despite their high costs, potential adverse effects, and modest efficacy? suggests the need to evaluate the outcomes associated with promising non-pharmacological/non-surgical CAM treatments for CMP, which are often well accepted by patients and increasingly used in the community. This application responds to the NCCAM program announcement PAR-08-045, ?Outcomes, Cost- Effectiveness and the Decision Making Process to Use CAM.? This multi-phase, mixed methods study will: (1) conduct an retrospective study using information from electronic medical records (EMRs) of a large HMO to identify unique clusters of patients with CMP (e.g., those with differing demographics, histories of pain condition, use of allopathic and CAM health services, and comorbidity profiles) that may be associated with different propensities for A/C utilization and/or differential outcomes associated with such care;(2) use qualitative interviews to explore allopathic providers? recommendations for A/C and patients? decisions to pursue and retain CAM care;and (3) prospectively evaluate health services/costs and broader clinical and functional outcomes associated with the receipt of A/C relative to carefully matched comparison participants receiving traditional CMP services. Sensitivity analyses will compare methods relying solely on EMR-derived data versus analyses supplementing EMR data with conventionally collected patient and clinician data. Successful completion of these aggregate aims will provide an evaluation of outcomes associated with the real-world use of A/C services. The trio of retrospective, qualitative, and prospective study will also provide a clearer understanding of the decision-making processes behind the use of A/C for CMP and a transportable methodology that can be applied to other health care settings, CAM treatments, and clinical populations.

Public Health Relevance

Americans seek complementary or alternative medicine (CAM) treatments far more often for chronic pain than for any other condition. Yet because research into the real world use of CAM remains sparse, we know little about its outcomes, costs, and how it is practiced in the community. The proposed study will look at how adults use acupuncture services to manage chronic pain and describe and predict clinical and quality-of-life outcomes, health care service use, and costs.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-HDM-F (50))
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Huntley, Kristen V
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Kaiser Foundation Research Institute
United States
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Johnson, Eric S; Dickerson, John F; Vollmer, William M et al. (2017) The feasibility of matching on a propensity score for acupuncture in a prospective cohort study of patients with chronic pain. BMC Med Res Methodol 17:42
Penney, Lauren S; Ritenbaugh, Cheryl; DeBar, Lynn L et al. (2017) Provider and patient perspectives on opioids and alternative treatments for managing chronic pain: a qualitative study. BMC Fam Pract 17:164
Penney, Lauren S; Ritenbaugh, Cheryl; Elder, Charles et al. (2016) Primary care physicians, acupuncture and chiropractic clinicians, and chronic pain patients: a qualitative analysis of communication and care coordination patterns. BMC Complement Altern Med 16:30
Elder, Charles; DeBar, Lynn; Ritenbaugh, Cheryl et al. (2015) Acupuncture and chiropractic care: utilization and electronic medical record capture. Am J Manag Care 21:e414-21
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DeBar, Lynn L; Elder, Charles; Ritenbaugh, Cheryl et al. (2011) Acupuncture and chiropractic care for chronic pain in an integrated health plan: a mixed methods study. BMC Complement Altern Med 11:118