A small fraction of general practitioners (GPs) in the Netherlands has completed additional training in complementary medicine after obtaining their conventional medical degree. Using a data set from a health insurer, this paper documents that patients whose GP has additional training in anthroposophic medicine, homeopathy, or acupuncture have substantially lower health care costs and lower mortality rates. The lower costs result from fewer hospital stays and fewer prescription drugs. Since the differences remain once we control for neighborhood specific fixed effects at a highly detailed level, the lower costs and longer lives are unlikely to be related to differences in socio-economic status. Possible explanations are selection (e.g. people with a low taste for medical interventions might be more likely to choose CAM) and better practices (e.g. less overtreatment, more focus on preventive and curative health promotion) by GPs with knowledge of compleme ntary medicine.
Peter Kooreman & Erik Baars, Tilburg University