Previously being thought of as witchcraft and hippy remedies, alternative medicine is finally starting to hold a place in traditional healthcare. Otherwise known as integrative or holistic medicine, more and more doctors and medical practices are embracing methods like acupuncture, nutrition and supplements to treat the whole patient. This goes hand-in-hand with wellness programs and lifestyle medicine, which involve changing what the patient does on a day-to-day basis to influence their health for the better, such as getting consistent exercise and smoking cessation.
According to Dr. Andrew Weil, about 50% of U.S. medical schools have added some sort of integrative medicine to their programs. Some of the doctors most open to alternative methods include pediatricians and family doctors. While many oncologists are slow to use integrative health methods, cancer patients are demanding it, and the Cancer Treatment Centers of America are a prime example of the use of integrative medicine in a traditional medical setting.
The medical industry is beginning to get on board and realize that treating only acute symptoms is not always effective since the mind and body are linked, and that addressing a patient’s whole person (including the physical, emotional, spiritual and environmental) is the key to wellness.
Integrative medicine involves not only accepting alternative methods of treatment but also utilizing conventional methods as well. It is the two working together that bring about the most effective treatments. Learn more here: Balancing Traditional and Alternative Medicine.
Alternative approaches to pain management and treatment are being used more and more since opioid painkiller addiction is becoming more widespread. In many cases, alternative methods like meditation, supplements, diet changes, acupuncture, reiki, electrotherapy and tai chi are now being prescribed to assist with pain instead of pharmaceuticals. The only problem is that most of these treatments are still not covered by health insurance.
Patient demand is the main driver of this trend. Patients are tired of not having a relationship with their doctors. They no longer want 10 minute visits that result in quick fix prescriptions. They are beginning to understand that wellness comes from patient participation and taking control of your health more than anything else.
What’s more, chronic diseases are running rampant and it is evident that the way we’ve been handling healthcare needs an overhaul. The government has tried to help reduce chronic disease by initiating population health requirements, requiring hospitals and healthcare providers to play a greater role in the health of our communities. The current shift from fee-for-service to value-based care, which pays providers for quality instead of quantity will help facilitate a healthier nation.
In addition, study after study is proving the validity of integrative medicine and the wellness approach. Doctors are starting to believe what alternative medicine advocates have believed for many years – that natural approaches to health can lead to reversals of health conditions and a more optimal state of health in general.
It has taken many years to get to where we are. Skepticism has led to curiosity as alternative treatments have proven effective. Curiosity has turned to understanding, which has led to greater acceptance of what used to be considered “new age.” But we still have a long way to go as there continues to be resistance from insurers, pharmaceutical companies and some conventional medical circles. Tell us your thoughts below!