Unwarranted variation in health care is a common and debilitating phenomenon. A recent collection of papers in Health Affairs describes various remedies for this problem. However, implementing these remedies has proven to be difficult due to many factors, including an outdated quality agenda, economic incentives that do not reward exemplary practice, and an incomplete state of clinical science. The new Medicare reform legislation provides an opportunity to redesign health care and implement innovative strategies, but it also presents a number of cultural challenges.
Herbal medicines are natural alternatives that can be used to treat a number of medical conditions. Although they can be effective, they often interact with other drugs and can cause unexpected side effects. In fact, there are billions of dollars in revenue from non-conventional treatments in the United States alone. These alternative therapies may be more convenient than prescription medications and are widely available. People may also feel more comfortable using natural products than synthetic drugs. Another advantage of herbal remedies is that they do not require a doctor’s prescription.
Studies show that half of the U.S. population has at least tried alternative medical remedies, including herbal dietary supplements, chiropractic treatments, and energy therapies. Although many of these treatments have unproven healing effects, they are increasingly becoming popular as complementary treatment options to conventional medicine. According to the American Society for Clinical Nutrition, one-third of U.S. adults have tried alternative medicine at some point in their lives. Another 18% have never tried it.