Acupuncture treatments are gaining popularity at nationwide hospitals due to more recognition of its effectiveness in various conditions, according to a recent survey by the American Hospital Assn. and the Samueli Institute, a nonprofit research group focusing on complementary medicine.
The recent survey concluded found that 42% of the 714 hospitals that responded offered at least one therapy such as acupuncture in 2010; five years earlier, only 27% of hospitals offered such treatments.
According to the survey, the top treatments offered at outpatient centers were massage therapy, acupuncture and guided imagery.
Experts say hospitals aren't blind to the opportunity these therapies present to attract patients and perhaps make some money.
According to the most recent report from the National Center for Health Statistics, Americans spent $33.9 billion on integrative therapies in 2007 — with most of the money coming out of their own pockets, since the majority of these treatments aren't covered by insurance.
That figure includes fees for about 354 million visits to complementary and alternative medical practitioners, and it represents about 11% of total out-of-pocket expenditures on healthcare.
Hospitals offer most of their integrative therapies on an outpatient basis, with most of the treatments typically aimed at relieving symptoms of serious or chronic illness.
Many physicians use acupuncture to relieve nausea and pain in patients who are undergoing cancer treatments and various types of surgery. The hospital survey found that patient satisfaction was the No. 1 measure used to evaluate the success of a hospital's complementary and alternative medicine program, cited by 85% of respondents. Only 42% said they were using health outcomes to measure the success of their programs.