The association between the use of biomedical services and the holistic use of traditional East Asian medicine: A national survey of outpatients in South Korea

Jae-Mahn Shim, Yun Suk Lee

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Objectives: The holistic use of a system of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is potentially linked to its treatment outcomes. This paper examines how the use of biomedicine is associated with the holistic use of CAM, focusing on traditional East Asian medicine (EM) that is uniquely integrated in the medical system in South Korea. Design/Settings: A representative national sample of EM outpatients in South Korea. Participants: 3861 survey respondents. Methods: By using the 2011 Korean National Survey of EM patients, ordered logistic regression models specify the relationship between EM outpatients' use of biomedicine and their holistic use of EM modalities. Results: Among EM outpatients who used at least one EM modality in the past 3 months, people who used two (33.3%) or three (29.4%) modalities together are the two highest proportions, followed by users of four (18.1%), five (7.2%), six (2.1%) and seven (0.6%) modalities. The odds for EM users to use EM holistically are 17% greater among EM users who used biomedicine as well, compared with EM users who did not use biomedicine. Conclusions: The healthcare community should recognise that CAM use likely becomes holistic as people use biomedicine concomitantly, when the practice rights over a CAM system are comprehensively and exclusively entitled to a group of CAM professionals who are independent from practitioners of biomedicine.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere018414
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Dec 1



  • co-utilization
  • east asian medicine
  • holism
  • korea
  • utilization behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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