Many Americans have never heard of integrative medicine, but this holistic movement has left its imprint on many of the nation’s hospitals, universities, chiropractic and medical schools, and private practices.
Doctors and patients alike are drawn to the philosophy of integrative medicine and its whole-person approach — designed to treat the person, not just the disease.
Integrative medicine, as it’s often called, depends on a partnership between the patient and the doctor, where the goal is to treat the mind, body, and spirit at the same time. While some of the therapies used may be unconventional, a guiding principle in integrative medicine is to use therapies supported by high-quality evidence.
The cutting edge of healthcare
The integrative practice is on the cutting-edge of healthcare reform, integrating chiropractic and other complementary therapies with mainstream healthcare.
Those practices that master combining a patient-centered philosophy within an integrative setting are becoming a dominant force in the delivery of non-emergent healthcare to our nation’s population.
These practices understand that health comes from the inside out, and not from the outside in. As a profession, chiropractors have attempted to change the healthcare delivery system of our nation for more than 100 years, working from outside the system. By embracing medical and complementary healthcare professions within an integrative practice setting, chiropractic can change the way our nation embraces the profession as a healing modality.
Two trends converge
Two seemingly divergent trends reveal important information about the growth of integrative practices in the years ahead. The first is consolidation: Approximately 30 percent of medical physicians remain in private practice. The group medical practice has become the most-common model for the practice of medicine.
This is now the prevailing trend in chiropractic. Chiropractors across the country are learning that consolidating services in the form of integrative practices is a cost-effective, stable way to deliver healthcare to the maximum number of patients.
An integrative practice that combines a variety of services can offer more benefits to its patients. Along with chiropractic and traditional medicine, integrative practices can include other healing modalities, such as nutrition, herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage, biofeedback, yoga, and stress-reduction techniques in an effort to treat the whole person. This results from a second trend, known as diversification.
Integrative practices consolidate location and diversify the services they deliver. This highly coordinated, cost-effective manner of delivering patient care is defining the practice of today and the future.
Integrative care makes cents
Patient-centered care in an integrative setting has been shown to lower medical costs and reduce the need for certain healthcare services. In an integrative practice, doctors and alternative practitioners work together to coordinate care. They have more personalized discussions with their patients and encourage them to take a more active role in their health.
The outcome of this increased interaction is that both doctors and patients have more confidence that they reached a correct diagnosis and a good strategy to improve the patient’s health. This approach helps eliminate or reduce unnecessary and costly testing and referrals to specialists. Patients are also more likely to comply with their doctor’s recommendations and show up for appointments when they take part in shaping their treatment plan.
Patient-centered care has been gaining acceptance in the insurance field. The Institute of Medicine has identified the concept as one of the keys to improving the nation’s health. With the increase in managed care, doctors are under pressure to see more patients in shorter amounts of time, and the amount of patients’ one-on-one time with the doctor is continually declining.
To combat this trend, some insurers have begun financially rewarding doctors who follow key components, which include extended access, electronic health records, and a registry to track patients’ care.
Embracing the change
Some chiropractors are hesitant to embrace the integrative model of practice for fear they will lose their autonomy or compromise their profession in the process. In fact, chiropractors have nothing to fear in this respect. It is indeed possible to create a patient-centered, integrative practice that honors the art, science, and philosophy of chiropractic.
An integrative practice provides both allopathic and holistic therapies in a two-pronged “corrective” and “wellness” approach. There is a clear scope of practice between allopathic and chiropractic healthcare, and integrative practices provide patients with the best of both disciplines. It is time for healthcare practitioners of all disciplines to make their services more accessible to patients in one-stop, holistic-allopathic integrative healthcare practices that focus on the patient while honoring the disciplines of all practice members involved.
Mark Sanna, DC, ACRB Level II, FICC, is a member of the Chiropractic Summit, the ACA Governor’s Advisory Cabinet, and a board member of the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress. He is the president and CEO of Breakthrough Coaching and can be contacted at 800- 723-8423 or through mybreakthrough.com.