Objective. Integrative medicine, a popular movement in the USA and Europe, is taught in many
US medical schools. This study describes how Australian doctors define integrative medicine,
what motivates them to work in integrative medicine and the incorporation of complementary
and alternative medicines (CAM) into their practice.
Methods. Semi-structured interviews were conducted between May and December 2009 with 23
doctors in two Australian states working in integrative medicine. A thematic analysis of interview
transcripts was undertaken.
Results. Doctors’ interpretations of the term ‘integrative medicine’ varied considerably. All
maintained a strong belief in the usefulness of conventional medicine, while a holistic and
patient-centred approach, promoting well-being, was central to their practice. Doctors’ motivations
for choosing an integrative approach to their practice of medicine also varied, but personal
and professional experiences of alternative approaches to illness were influential in this
decision. The nature of their clinical practice was also diverse; few doctors in this sample practice
or professionally use CAM; a small number were happy to advise patients on the use of different
modalities while even less referred to complementary practitioners.
Conclusions. The concept and practice of integrative medicine among the doctors interviewed
were diverse. This has implications for the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners inclusion
criteria for the membership of their integrative medicine chapter. More broadly, the findings
have implications for all medical practice and the education of medical students, as much of
what integrative medicine doctors do may be considered simply as ‘good medical practice’.
Complementary medicine; general practice; integrative medicine