Our Featured Topic: Envisioning the Future of Health Care
Our Featured Topic: Envisioning the Future of Health Care

There is a new medical catch-phrase on the horizon in America. This new movement is driven by consumers and it’s getting the attention of health care facilities across the country. Exactly what is this new movement? It is called Integrative Medicine.

How important is this movement? In 1998, the American Medical Association reported that 42 percent of Americans were using alternative methods of healing as complements to conventional healing. Americans were making about 200 million more visits to alternative and complementary health care providers than primary care physicians. That, coupled with the failing health care system in America today, we find a great emphasis towards the blending of alternative and conventional therapies for the future of our health and healing.

In his book Integrative Medicine, Dr. David Rakel says that its purpose is about changing the focus in medicine to one of healing, rather than disease. This involves an understanding of the influences of mind, body, spirit and community. This cannot be done without a sound commitment to the doctor-patient relationship.

I have been fortunate enough to experience healing through Integrative Medicine in my own life, from seeing it turn the health of my third son around from chronic ear infections to witnessing my cardiologist work with my acupuncturist to find the best treatments for my healing from aortic dissection in 2007. This works, and if it can happen in my life, it can happen in yours. However, an understanding of the term is important.


A Conversation on Integrative Medicine
Recently, I had an opportunity to interview Lori Knutson, a holistic nurse and director for the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis. In that interview, she explains the term.

Lori, can you give us an overview of integrative medicine?
It started with complementary therapies or alternative medicine. Integrative medicine takes traditional healing, which would be more native healing, and complementary therapies and blends them with Western medicine.

Does this mean that we actually take responsibility for our own health and healing when we embrace integrative medicine?
Yes, absolutely. It is about self-empowerment. It’s about understanding the choices that we have and how they apply to ourselves. It’s also about really understanding your body and your thoughts, how you react to your thoughts, and then making choices for yourself. As an integrative practitioner, nurse or doctor, your role it is to guide people: to provide them with information. Then, that person can make decisions independently.

Can you tell me how physicians are accepting this movement?
It has been an interesting evolution. When I started nursing, you never talked about things like this – not even massage, unless you were talking about physical therapy. But language has evolved. Now we talk about energy work like we talk about giving shots. Physicians have really come around. I think it is because they are experiencing the patient’s experience. So, as they see patients change, patients have less pain and anxiety, then physicians can practice differently.

Talk about integrative health care and the future.
The evolution that we are seeing, and the acceptance of it, is truly because it is the RIGHT thing. Whether we know that consciously or not, our bodies know it and our Spirits know it. It is the right direction for us to go in health.


Summit on Integrative Medicine
In February 2009, a Summit on Integrative Medicine and the Health of the Public took place at the Institute of Medicine in Washington, D.C. There, a large audience of scientists, medical professionals, policy experts and clinicians gathered to discuss new strategies for our current health care system.

As President Barack Obama seeks to address health care reform in our nation, the importance of including integrative medicine was discussed at this summit. By focusing on healing, rather than disease, the patient is at the center of care. Focus on prevention would be key, rather than only the reactive “sick care” focus we currently have. It was also suggested that the phrase “Integrative Health Care” be used, as it is a broader statement than the phrase “Integrative Medicine.”

By working together, we will hopefully change the focus of medicine to one of healing, rather than disease, and in time “Integrative Health Care” will be the way medicine is practiced.

Resources
The Bravewell Collaborative: www.bravewell.org
The Penny George Institute for Health and Healing: www.allina.com/ahs/anw.nsf/page/ihh_home

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