Patient Choice and Professional Regulation

How patients choose CAM practitioners

Authored by: Felicity L. Bishop

Routledge Handbook of Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Print publication date:  April  2015
Online publication date:  April  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415818940
eBook ISBN: 9780203578575
Adobe ISBN: 9781136685484


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Policy makers in the UK and elsewhere emphasise the importance of patient choice in health care. The King’s Fund has identified four particular health care choices in which patients can be involved: choice of provider, appointment, treatment, and individual health professional (Dixon et al., 2010). Within mainstream settings, initiatives such as “Choose and Book” and “NHS Choices” have been developed to empower and facilitate patients to make these choices. In complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) settings, patient choice is the norm: in the UK, most CAM is provided and accessed in the private sector (Thomas, Nicholl, & Coleman, 2001) where patients typically experience greater choice and control than in the public sector (Bishop, Barlow, Coghlan, Lee, & Lewith, 2011). This chapter explores patients’ perspectives on one particular health care choice in CAM: the choice of individual CAM practitioner. After a brief introduction, I will focus on a series of three mixed methods studies in which my team investigated how UK patients choose acupuncturists (Bishop, Massey, Yardley, & Lewith, 2011), osteopaths (Bishop, Bradbury, Jeludin, Massey, & Lewith, 2012), and chiropractors (Bishop, Smith, & Lewith, 2013). I will use these studies to illustrate how patients choose CAM practitioners, the factors that they take into account, and the sources they consult. Finally, I will consider the implications of these findings for professional and regulatory bodies.

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