Summary of "Integrative Medicine for Healthcare Orgs

The second annual “Integrative Medicine for Healthcare Organizations: Business Strategies, Practical Tools, and Best Practices” conference, which took place this past January in San Diego, explored ways that hospitals can build successful complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) programs.

Hosted by Health Forum and InnoVision Communications, and attended by more than 200 people, the conference has become, in the words of many of the participants, “a necessity for those delivering integrative care.” It is the only conference dedicated to the business issues of implementing integrative-medicine programs.

Successful CAM Programs

The conference, which offered practical information about credentialing and licensing of CAM practitioners, legal issues, fund raising, strategic planning, delivery models, and billing and coding practices, saw an increase in attendance of almost 30% over last year, a promising trend.

Also, most faculty agreed that the process of integration is coming from a place of thoughtfulness and careful planning. Rather than slapping together a CAM program that's likely to fail, hospital leaders are taking the time to consider all the facets and build successful programs.

There were fewer reports than the previous year of programs that were closing, and much greater interest in learning what has worked and what hasn’t.

In addition, hospitals are developing more ways to offer complementary and alternative medicine. Whereas only a few models existed a few years ago, Dr. Donald Novey, Medical Director for the Center for Complementary Medicine, Advocate Medical Group in Park Ridge, Ill., described five emerging models for the delivery of integrative medicine:

Consultatory: generally limited to a single type of illness, such as a cancer treatment center

Primary care: CAM added to the standard-care practice

Fitness center: integrative-medicine services are located within a fitness center

Virtual: CAM services scattered throughout the facility or system, and loosely coordinated

Spa: in addition to bodywork, some classes and retail sales are offered, and interfacing with chiropractic or acupuncture is provided

Because all of these options can be successful, Dr. Novey suggests that before choosing a model, providers should consider their competition, patient demographics, and the level of organizational support.

Misalignment between Consumers and Hospitals

Conference participants were perhaps surprised to learn that the CAM services patients are seeking don’t always match what the hospitals offer. Dr. Brian Berman, professor of family medicine and director of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Center for Integrative Medicine, Baltimore, drew a comparison of the Health Forum hospital CAM survey data findings with the Eisenberg consumer data.

While the top therapy sought by American consumers is relaxation techniques, followed by herbal medicine, massage, chiropractic, and spiritual healing, the Health Forum survey indicated that the top service offered by hospitals is massage, followed by stress management, yoga, relaxation techniques, and pastoral counseling.

In fact, only 13% of hospitals surveyed offer herbs in their hospital pharmacy, and chiropractic care is practically non-existent in the hospital setting.

Of course, much of this may have to do with licensing and credentialing, safety issues, ease of implementation, and other organizational factors.

The “Integrative Medicine for Healthcare Organizations: Business Strategies, Practical Tools, and Best Practices” conference is an annual event.

For more information, or to be added to the mailing list, please contact Sita Ananth at sananth@healthforum.com

Sita Ananth, M.H.A., is project director for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at Health Forum.

This article first appeared on March 3, 2004 in the Hospitals & Health Networks online site.

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