Necessary alternatives: patients’ views of asthma treatment
Helen Kopnina1, Joke Haafkens2
1Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labor Studies, University of Amsterdam; 2Department of General Practice, Academic Medical Centre of the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Abstract: This article is based on semistructured interviews and focus groups conducted with 27 asthma patients in The Netherlands who chose complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) for treatment of their condition. All subjects were contacted through an online forum for asthma patients hosted by the Dutch Asthma Foundation. Nineteen subjects (12 women and seven men) between the ages of 29 and 65 years participated in the interviews, held between June 2009 and January 2010. All of the participating subjects had experience with conventional medications, including anti-inflammatory corticosteroids and bronchodilators. For the focus group meeting, held in February 2010, the sample included seven subjects (four women and three men) between the ages of 31 and 46 years, none of whom had ever used conventional medication and all of whom were using CAM. All subjects in the sample had been diagnosed with asthma by their physician or lung specialist. The study examined the causes of patient noncompliance with the prescribed medical regime. It is argued that evidence-based rationality on the part of subjects is an overlooked dimension of their experience of asthma. This study demonstrates the role that the patients’ social network, including medical practitioners, friends, and family, and other asthmatics, plays in the process of decision-making and choices about treating asthma. It also demonstrates the role of patients’ information-searching strategies. The author concludes that patient noncompliance with commonly prescribed medication and selection of alternative medical treatment is less a matter of denial of their diagnosis or the severity of their illness, but more a matter of choice informed by evidence-based rationality.
Keywords: asthma, complementary alternative and medicine (CAM), evidence-based medicine (EBM), patient non-compliance, decision-making, indentity
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