The chart below lists the distribution of allopathic physicians practicing complementary/alternative medicine in Vienna in 1997.
In 2000, the Liga Medicorum Homeopathica Internationalis had 670 members in Austria. While there are no homeopathic hospitals, homeopathic consultation takes place regularly in five allopathic hospitals in Vienna and in one allopathic hospital in Klagenfurt. Austria has one academy of holistic medicine.
Only legally qualified and authorized medical professionals may practice medicine in Austria (172). Under Section 1.2 of the Federal Medical Law, medical acts are defined as “all activities based on medico-scientific knowledge carried out directly or indirectly on human beings” performed for the purposes of diagnosis, treatment, and prophylaxis. Under the Law on Physicians of 1984, medical acts that are not provided by authorized medical professionals, such as midwives, medical-technical assistants, and nurses, are reserved for allopathic physicians. Article 184 of the Penal Code states that unskilled persons who practice medical acts or activities reserved for allopathic physicians risk a fine or imprisonment of up to three months. However, the courts have been tolerant with regard to complementary/alternative medical practitioners and charges of charlatanism. In practice, Article 184 is enforced only when practitioners use methods that do not have any scientific support, such as mystic water treatment.
According to the Law on Health Services, only scientifically recognized medical care can be provided in hospitals. Acupuncture, neuraltherapy, and chiropractic are recognized, but not homeopathy. However, homeopathy is recognized by the National Committee of Medicals. Nonetheless, and despite the fact that there are neither specific legal or paralegal regulations nor draft regulations on the use of complementary/alternative medicine in the country, allopathic physicians are implicitly permitted to use any medical technique they deem appropriate, provided they obtain the consent of their patients. Under their own responsibility, therefore, allopathic physicians may use complementary/alternative medicine in their treatment regimes.
Education and Training
The Council of the Order of Physicians issues diplomas officially recognized as medical qualifications in acupuncture, homeopathy, manual therapy, and neuraltherapy. Training courses for these diplomas last between two and three years (from 140 to 350 hours). Neuraltherapy and chiropractic are taught in universities.
The National Medical Association recognizes the examination and title of “Homeopathic Doctor.” A three-year postgraduate homeopathic curriculum is available and leads to a diploma awarded by the official Medical Society of Austria. Advanced training is offered through seminars, lectures, and conferences with Austrian and international scholars. There are activities and associations for students interested in homeopathy at universities in Vienna, Graz, and Innsbruck.
As of 1 August 1996, the creation of a new educational institution of complementary/alternative medicine is punishable by imprisonment.
Public insurance funds have the following reimbursement criteria for medical treatments: scientific proof of effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, and appropriateness. Complementary/alternative medicine is generally not covered. Exceptions are made, however, for homeopathy and, for purposes of pain relief, massage, balneotherapy, and electrotherapy. Exceptions are also made when allopathic treatments are unsuccessful and relatively recognized complementary/alternative treatments are the last resort. The Oberösterreichische Gebietskrankenkasse partially reimburses acupuncture treatments.
Some private insurance companies cover complementary/alternative medicine.