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Open Access Research article

Health care utilization among complementary and alternative medicine users in a large military cohort

Martin R White1*, Isabel G Jacobson1, Besa Smith1, Timothy S Wells1, Gary D Gackstetter2, Edward J Boyko3, Tyler C Smith1 and Millennium Cohort Study Team

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Defense Center for Deployment Health Research at the Naval Health Research Center, San Diego, CA, USA

2 Analytic Services, Inc. (ANSER), Arlington, VA, USA

3 Seattle Epidemiologic Research and Information Center, Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System, Seattle, WA, USA

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2011, 11:27  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-11-27

Published: 11 April 2011

Abstract

Background

Complementary and Alternative Medicine use and how it impacts health care utilization in the United States Military is not well documented. Using data from the Millennium Cohort Study we describe the characteristics of CAM users in a large military population and document their health care needs over a 12-month period. The aim of this study was to determine if CAM users are requiring more physician-based medical services than users of conventional medicine.

Methods

Inpatient and outpatient medical services were documented over a 12-month period for 44,287 participants from the Millennium Cohort Study. Equal access to medical services was available to anyone needing medical care during this study period. The number and types of medical visits were compared between CAM and non-CAM users. Chi square test and multivariable logistic regression was applied for the analysis.

Results

Of the 44,287 participants, 39% reported using at least one CAM therapy, and 61% reported not using any CAM therapies. Those individuals reporting CAM use accounted for 45.1% of outpatient care and 44.8% of inpatient care. Individuals reporting one or more health conditions were 15% more likely to report CAM use than non-CAM users and 19% more likely to report CAM use if reporting one or more health symptoms compared to non-CAM users. The unadjusted odds ratio for hospitalizations in CAM users compared to non-CAM users was 1.29 (95% CI: 1.16-1.43). The mean number of days receiving outpatient care for CAM users was 7.0 days and 5.9 days for non-CAM users (p < 0.001).

Conclusions

Our study found those who report CAM use were requiring more physician-based medical services than users of conventional medicine. This appears to be primarily the result of an increase in the number of health conditions and symptoms reported by CAM users.