Integrated Health Care

The Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine defines this practice as “medicine that confirms the importance of the practitioner/patient relationship; focuses on the whole person; is evidence-based; and uses all appropriate modalities, health care professionals and disciplines to achieve health and healing.”

Following this logic, patients win. We receive medical attention that considers our whole person – mind, body and soul. Our doctors take the time to listen and to recognize that the supplements we take and alternative therapies we engage, really do enhance our life and well-being. We want our medical and natural health care practitioners to work together in our best interest to enhance our health – and our lives.

As Desert Health[sup]®[/sup] celebrates our inaugural year, we look back on the interviews and editorial covered and understand that a majority of medical professionals prefer this whole person methodology. It is the conventional system that does not always afford the time to take this approach.

Fortunately, things are changing. Many practitioners and institutions are moving in an integrated, inclusive direction to answer consumer demand and to deliver more fulfilled doctors.

“You enter college with the ideals of helping people and becoming an advocate for your patients,” states Chris Flores, M.D., a family practitioner in Palm Desert. “But the traditional system does not afford doctors the time to take ownership of your patients’ well being and to offer whole person health care.” Flores is one of many Coachella Valley physicians who have opted for private practice and have embraced integrative medicine for whole person care. “I am earning less than I would have within the system, but I enjoy significantly greater satisfaction.”

Our local hospitals understand the demand and have also incorporated change. More than a decade ago, Desert Regional Medical Center’s Comprehensive Cancer Center conducted surveys to determine the use of alternative therapies by their patients. The statistics led DRMC to incorporate systems encouraging patients to speak openly about all modalities being practiced, and to provide both patients and physicians current risk-benefit data to assist in open, educated communication about individual patient care.

Eisenhower Medical Center has launched their Wellness Institute (EWI) with a focus on preventative medicine and promoting healthy lifestyles. Their programs allow participating doctors the time to advise patients on creating new habits and choices to enhance their well-being. “We are a very happy group of doctors,” states EWI Medical Director, Dr. Patricia Avila, “We work with our clients to create personalized, interdisciplinary programs for long-term wellness. It is very rewarding.” EWI will be incorporating yoga, acupuncture, mindful meditation and other science-based modalities into their patient programs.

Desert Health[sup]®[/sup] has spoken with many individual specialists who are working together with natural practitioners for whole patient care. In our July issue, we spoke with oncologist, Dr. Amy Law, who often refers patients to the naturopathic doctors at the Live Well Clinic for supplemental care. As featured in our new Integrated Practices section, Thomas Reynolds, M.D. and Shannon Sinsheimer, N.D. work jointly on patient care for cancer and other conditions such as fibromyalgia.

For some physicians, incorporating integrative medicine into their practice presents an unknown challenge and learning curve. Fortunately, some of the country’s leading institutions now provide extended learning for physicians. One example is Scripts Integrative Hospital in San Diego that offers certification for integrative and holistic medicine. Three EWI doctors were certified this year.

The Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Michael Roizen, who we interviewed for our March issue, is hosting the 9th annual Preventative and Integrative Medicine Conference. He states that ‘as use of complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) continues to expand, so does the practitioner’s need to know current risk-benefit data, potential applications, and how to integrate CAMs into clinical practice. Because these therapies are still outside mainstream medicine, not all practitioners are familiar with the evidence base for these options or may be uncomfortable discussing them with patients or prescribing them.’

It seems that tomorrow’s doctors will graduate with a greater knowledge of integrative health care as mindsets are changing and complementing, science-based modalities are incorporated into U.S. medical school curriculum. This may just result in more well-rounded doctors, greater whole person care, and a medical system that supports both.

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