Complementary and alternative medicine research in practice-based research networks: A critical review

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 2019, 43 pp. 7 - 19
Issue Date:
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© 2019 Elsevier Ltd Aims: To provide a critical analysis of peer-reviewed literature reporting research from practice-based research networks (PBRNs) relating to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Methods: A comprehensive literature search of peer-reviewed literature reporting PBRN research focusing upon CAM was conducted in PubMed, Ovid Medline, EMBASE, and CINAHL from their inceptions to June 2017. PBRN registry and websites of relevant PBRNs were also searched for further information. With regards to the nested PBRN studies included in our review, no study design restrictions were imposed and both empirical research and relevant methodologically-focused manuscripts were included. Methodological quality was evaluated via a number of established tools. Results: A total of 51 articles reporting upon CAM research in PBRNs including six articles outlining CAM-focused PBRN establishment were included in the review. The findings of the literature were categorised as either: health services research (including work examining characteristics of patients and practices, doctor-patient communication, and CAM prevalence); effectiveness/safety research; or feasibility research. While 19 studies from non-CAM focused PBRNs tended to report on CAM prevalence and doctor-patient communication about CAM use, 26 articles from CAM-focused PBRNs reported on the characteristics of CAM users, practice patterns, and effectiveness/safety of CAM practice. Discussion and conclusion: PBRNs - both CAM-focused and non-CAM focused - have provided a useful platform for research investigations around a number of core CAM-related issues. Given the increasing popularity of CAM use in healthcare and the identified benefits of practice-relevant research, further in-depth CAM research nested within PBRN designs is warranted.
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