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Open Access Research

Referral to Chinese medicine practitioners in Australian primary care: a survey of New South Wales rural and regional general practitioners

Jonathan L Wardle12*, David W Sibbritt12 and Jon Adams12

Author Affiliations

1 Australian Research Centre in Complementary and Integrative Medicine, Faculty of Health, University of Technology Sydney, 235-253 Jones St, Ultimo, NSW, Australia

2 Network of Researchers in the Public Health of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NORPHCAM

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Chinese Medicine 2013, 8:8  doi:10.1186/1749-8546-8-8

Published: 8 April 2013

Abstract

Background

Chinese medicine practitioners (CMPs) play an important part in rural and regional Australian healthcare. A survey was conducted to investigate referral practices between Chinese medicine (CM) and conventional primary health care practitioners in this region.

Methods

A 27-item questionnaire was sent to all 1486 general practitioners (GPs) currently practising in rural and regional Divisions of General Practice in New South Wales, Australia. This survey explored GP opinions, perceptions and practices in relation to complementary and alternative medicine or Chinese medicine specifically.

Results

A total of 585 GPs completed the questionnaire. Forty-nine were returned as ‘no longer at this address’, resulting in an adjusted response rate of 40.7%. One in ten GPs (9.9%) had referred their patients to CMPs at least a few times over the past 12 months, one in five GPs (17.4%) could not locate a CMP to refer to in their local area, and over one-third of GPs (37.7%) stated they would not refer to a CMP under any circumstances. GPs that had graduated from an Australian medical college (OR = 3.71; CI: 1.22, 11.23), GPs observing positive responses previously in patients using CM (OR = 2.53; 95% CI: 1.12, 8.58), GPs perceiving a lack of other options for patients (OR = 3.10; 95% CI: 1.12, 8.58), GPs reporting satisfactory or higher levels of CM knowledge (OR = 15.62; 95% CI: 5.47, 44.56), and GPs interested in increasing their complementary and alternative medicine knowledge (OR = 3.28; 95% CI: 1.17, 9.21) referred to CMPs more frequently than did other groups of GPs amongst the rural GPs included in this study.

Conclusion

There has been little interaction between CMPs and Australian rural and regional GPs.