The knowledge of general practitioners about chiropractic as a factor that may influence health care integration in South Africa
Several studies in Europe, Canada and the USA indicate that communication between GP’s and chiropractors is not ideal. Langworthy and Birkelid’s (2001) study concluded that with increasing emphasis on multidisciplinary health care, greater understanding and better communication is needed in order for the patient to obtain optimum benefits. The medical profession in the past has generally been opposed to the theories and practice of chiropractic, for a variety of reasons, including lack of scientific validity as well as unsubstantiated management utility (Silver, 1980). However, a Canadian study indicates that much progress has been made in diminishing the gap between GP’s and chiropractors (Verhoef and Page, 1996). Few studies have investigated GPs’ knowledge, awareness and attitudes toward complementary and alternative health care providers, especially in relation to the balance between market rivalry and interprofessional care (Langworthy and Smink, 2000). One such study performed in the Netherlands by Brussee et al. (2001) found that a statistically significant relationship existed between the level of knowledge of chiropractic and the frequency of referral of patients by GP’s. In the UK, it was found that many GP’s were more comfortable in referring to physiotherapists because they felt they had a better understanding of the treatment involved (Breen, et al., 2000). The chiropractic profession is attempting to improve co-operation with the medical profession via the scientific validation of its theories and practice through research (Rubens, 1996). The current perception in South Africa is that GP’s do not tend to refer patients to chiropractors. This has implications for chiropractic in the South African context in terms of integration. Therefore, as the current “gatekeepers” of primary healthcare, it is important to ascertain the perception and knowledge that this group has of the chiropractic profession in South Africa. The purpose of this investigation was therefore to determine the current knowledge and perception of GP’s in South Africa of chiropractors and chiropractic treatment in general. This should establish a knowledge base to facilitate greater understanding and co-operation between GP’s and chiropractors.