Minnesota may close the state office that oversees use of complementary and alternative medical therapies by non-licensed practitioners of modalities from ayurveda to energy healing to hypnosis.
According to an article in the Associated Press, state officials are eyeing possible budgetary savings by closing the office, arguing that
only 63 consumers submitted complaints since 2001.
The office is charged with investigating complaints and disciplining practitioners who endanger their clients, make false claims in advertising or otherwise violate patient rights. Consumer complaints have involved “fraud, misrepresentation of credentials and false advertising.”
The AP article also notes that: “In the area of massage, at least, the numbers are growing rapidly… The Twin Cities area now has about 25 massage schools and training programs, many of them newly minted. Since 1992, more than 60,000 people have taken a national certification exam for massage…”
The lack of significant consumer complaints about alternative medicine providers could be a good thing, though – not a reason to close the office. The low numbers suggest complementary care providers are not hurting patients as much as suppposed.
The office provides a remedy for patients who do allege injuries from non-licensed CAM providers; closing the office could be penny-wise and pound-foolish.
According to the AP article, “the Office of Complementary and Alternative Medicine just didn’t get much business, said Doug Stang, an assistant commissioner in the Health Department, where the office is located. The office has only one staff person, and that job hasn’t always been filled because of an employee strike and a state hiring freeze. Most consumers never even knew the office existed, largely because many practitioners didn’t alert their clients to it.”
There seems to be a lot of confusion about the extent to which regulation is helpful, and what kind of regulation is helpful. The article quotes one source as saying that “what’s really needed … is .. regulation.” The article notes that: “The state already licenses acupuncturists and chiropractors, but regulation of massage businesses is left to city governments, with a patchwork of training requirements ranging from none in Minneapolis to fairly stringent ones in Bloomington. Most other therapies aren’t regulated at all….
Free publications such as ‘Essential Wellness’ overflow with ads for aromatherapy, hypnosis, essential oils, hot stone massage, feng shui consultants and other ways to heal. Some practitioners ask potential customers to take a lot on faith….But not everyone in the world of alternative medicine wants state regulation.”
The sources might be confusing regulation in general with licensure and credentialing.
On the integrative medicine front, the article cites “demand for acupuncture, massage and other healing therapies … at Abbott Northwestern, where practitioners from the hospital’s Institute for Health and Healing make as many as 900 appointments with hospital patients a month.” But no mention is made as to the relationship between the hospital’s effort to integrate complementary care providers, with the low-level effort to regulate non-licensed providers through the state’s Office of Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Source: Martiga Lohn, “Alternative medicine office on budget hit list,” AP (4/4/05)(http://www.twincities.com/mld/twincities/news/state/minnesota/11054307.htm).