Introduction: Many terms have been used to describe the provision of healthcare services that historically had not been part of mainstream medicine. The variety of names includes complementary medicine, complementary and alternative medicine, integrative medicine, integrated medicine, complementary and integrative medicine, and others. This variation can impede understanding and comparison of the features and practices of care.
Objective: The purpose of this work is to analyze the components of a group of integrative medicine-related definitions thought to have the greatest current usage and impact in the field.
Methods: This study was a qualitative content analysis of English language definitions of select IM/H related terms. It explored the usage and context of occurring terms. Purposive sampling was used to identify sources of IM/H definitions by querying a group of subject matter experts. Summative content analysis was conducted on the text of each definition.
Results: Eight definitions were identified and analyzed, and a group of eleven themes emerged. The most common elements included whole person focus, evidence-informed, optimal health/wellness, and combination of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) with conventional medicine. Differences existed with respect to terms such as modality/therapy versus profession/discipline.
Conclusion: The themes described may be relevant to clarify discussion of future research and policy efforts.
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