According to a recent article published by the American Hospital Association, Integrative Medicine is becoming more popular in the healthcare industry, and the major force behind this movement is primarily coming from the patients themselves.
Integrative care programs, such as acupuncture, energy medicine, and tai chi, have garnered increased acceptance among the general public, and an increasing number of hospitals and health systems are adding these integrative therapies to their menu of options. The AHA confirms that the primary reason for this increase is actually due to individual patient demand.
Massage, music, humor, and pet therapy along with mindfulness, yoga, and acupuncture are all being more widely accepted because clinicians are incorporating these therapies into their traditional Western Medicine practices in a coordinated way.
According to the AHA, comprehensive outpatient centers specializing in Integrative Medicine operate at a high cost, and, for the most part, do not have adequate reimbursements. Consequently, many of these centers are still dependent upon donations.
It’s been my experience that, depending on the health system’s size, location, and other factors such as economic well-being, they offer either comprehensive outpatient integrative centers or integrative services in inpatient settings. Either way, the providers have to deal with reimbursement challenges for these programs.
It is customary for many Insurers to cover acupuncture and in many states, they also provide reimbursements for massage therapy. But the primary source of payment in Integrative Medicine is still from the patients who are asked to pay for them out of pocket. In some cases, like at Highlands Hospital, in the inpatient setting, the services are offered to the patients without any charges.
Because the various treatment modalities offered in integrative medicine are still not taught in traditional medical schools, there are physicians who continue to be skeptical about their use, but the amazing results that can emanate from these programs are becoming more and more widely accepted and acknowledged.
One reason for the acceptance of these programs is the increasing number of evidence-based scientific papers that are being submitted to and accepted by traditional medical journals each year. There have been over 19,000 papers submitted on the effectiveness of acupuncture alone.
The other reason for more widespread acceptance is the now recognized positive patient outcomes. In my experience as a hospital CEO, we have seen integrative therapies shorten the patient’s length of stay and reduce the need for pain medication while improving the patient’s overall care experience.
Dr. Angela LaSalle, director of integrative services at Parkview Health System in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Dr. Kelly Warshel, director of palliative care services at the Chan Soon Shiong Medical Center at Windber, Dr. Leonard Wisneski, Chairman of the Integrative Health Policy Consortium, and Dr. Mimi Guarneri, President of the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine are just a few of the physicians with whom I have worked to create “healing environments,” for patients.
This type of total care is integral to the overall quality of the patient experience. We have seen time and time again where Reiki, music, and mindfulness practices can decrease patient’s anxiety, and with less anxiety, the immune system has a greater opportunity to work properly.
In my experience, when we compared such benchmarks as lengths of stay, pain medication use, or patient satisfaction for patients who received integrative therapies as compared to those who did not the patients almost unanimously reported a decrease in both, pain and anxiety.
As we look for ways to decrease the use of drugs and become more active in our own health and wellness efforts, it is apparent that integrative care practitioners who combine traditional medicine with the integrative therapies are providing extremely meaningful care to their patients.
I remember hearing a prominent integrative physician state the following, “Acupuncture may not work for every patient in every situation, but the great news is it can’t hurt you. Even if it’s done incorrectly, it releases endorphins.”