Is Health Services Research the Holy Grail of Complementary and Alternative Medicine Research?

Published In: Alternative therapies In Health and Medicine, v. 14, no. 4, July/Aug. 2008, p. 40-45

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2008

by Ian D. Coulter, Raheleh Khorsan

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In a 2006 article in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, Herman et al argued cogently that adopting a health services research (HSR) paradigm would help resolve some of the issues that the complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) community and those researching CAM face with randomized controlled trials.1 Although the article makes a strong case for HSR and CAM, it fails to discuss some of the work in HSR that is uniquely relevant to CAM or to provide a critique of the view one gets from HSR about CAM. There is within the studies of chiropractic a sufficient body of HSR, which can help to assess what the contribution of HSR has been in the past and also what its limitations are today. It provides a cautionary tale for CAM. This article looks at HSR in relationship to evidence-based practice and will discuss the limitations and dangers of the view of CAM from the perspective of HSR using chiropractic studies as an exemplar.

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