What is Integrative Medicine?
Integrative medicine is a patient-focused, whole-person medical practice that uses treatments that are both evidence based and experience based. Integrative medicine incorporates a range of disciplines, including alternative and standard Western medical treatments, to provide safe, effective health care.
Practitioners of integrative medicine see patients as partners and work closely with you to ensure you're receiving the treatments you need. Integrative medicine addresses several factors, including the physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and environmental influences that impact a person's health status.
In addition to offering treatments that attend to immediate health problems, integrative medicine concentrates on the broader concepts of health (including living a healthy lifestyle) that promote a person's total health and well-being now and in the future.
What it Involves
Integrative medicine puts an emphasis on the practitioner-patient relationship and is based on a model of focusing on health and wellness, as opposed to a model of disease. By customizing care for each patient, integrative medicine treats more than just the symptoms.
Together, you and your physician address the causes of an illness, including biological, psychosocial, environmental, and behavioral aspects, as well as prevention. The integrative medicine approach addresses your immediate health needs along with the other variables that affect your long-term health and well-being.
Practitioners of integrative medicine integrate the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies along with conventional treatments. CAM treatments are only used if shown to be effective, safe, and appropriate for an individual's individual health status.
Evidence-based CAM treatments commonly used with traditional medical care include:
- Functional medicine
- Guided imagery
- Natural supplements
- Therapeutic massage
During your initial visit with an integrative medicine specialist, your health background will be assessed, and you'll explore the root causes of your ailment to better comprehend how emotional, physical, social, spiritual, and environmental factors might be contributing to your health concerns.
You will work closely with the practitioner to establish a personalized wellness strategy based on your immediate health needs. You will also be encouraged to develop healthy habits and self-care skills you can apply throughout your life to fulfill and sustain your long-term health goals.
Integrative medicine does not replace the care you receive from your primary doctor. Instead, it complements existing treatments prescribed by your primary care and specialty providers. When you've consulted with an integrative medicine practitioner, they will send your primary provider a summary of your visit and a list of therapies recommended.
In some cases, an integrative specialist might be a primary provider, depending on their professional training and the licensing requirements of the jurisdiction.
Any suggested natural remedies and complementary therapies included in your personalized wellness strategy should not interfere with any traditional medications you've been prescribed. They instead are meant to maximize your body's capacity for recovery alongside any other treatments you are receiving.
Integrative medicine encourages people to take responsibility for their health and well-being when working in partnership with their healthcare professionals and on their own.
If you are interested in receiving integrated healthcare, contact your insurance provider to determine which expenses will be covered. Some insurance providers do not cover the complementary and alternative therapies that are used in integrative medicine, while others cover some treatments, such as acupuncture and some mind-body therapies.
Types of Integrative Medicine Professionals
Integrative medicine practitioners include professionals of many disciplines-- medical doctors, nurse practitioners, doctors of osteopathic medicine, naturopaths, chiropractors, mental health professionals, mind-body specialists, massage therapists, and practitioners of complementary treatments such as reiki and acupuncture.
The educational and certification requirements for these occupations vary widely, as does the regulation of these specialties.
If you are looking for an integrative medicine specialist, look for someone who is fully accredited in their specialty and straightforward about their experiences and belief system. For example, do they believe in the mind-body-spirit connection that underlies the foundation of integrative medicine?
Good integrative medicine practitioners see their patients not only as partners, but are also ready to work collaboratively with other healthcare professionals responsible for your treatment.
Part of what makes integrative medicine so special is the sharing of information amongst healthcare professionals that are attending to the needs of each individual. Research shows that interprofessional collaboration can improve patient outcomes.
Integrative medicine therapies are used to treat many health problems and illnesses, including:
- Chronic pain
- Heart disease
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Multiple sclerosis
Integrative medicine is increasing in popularity in healthcare settings throughout the United States, as more people are interested in more holistic, personalized approaches to recovery. Several hospitals have been trialing integrative medicine programs and examining the impact integrative medicine has on patient care.
A number of assessments and clinical studies have shown favorable outcomes for individuals and providers that participate in integrative medicine programs.5.
Researchers are exploring the benefits of integrative medicine for a number of disorders and situations, including pain management, symptom relief for cancer patients and survivors, and also programs that promote healthy behaviors to sustain long-lasting health.
People have practiced medicine throughout the world for thousands of years. History shows us that new medical interventions have commonly been a blend of old traditions with developments in societies worldwide. In that way, integrative medicine has informally been practiced by people for many years.
Some professionals more formally adopted integrative medicine in the early 1990s. In 1994, the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine was founded, with a key focus on educating medical professionals in integrative medicine. The Academic Collaborative for Integrative Health was established in 2004 to promote policies and action to advance integrated healthcare throughout the United States. Today, integrative medicine is a globally recognized movement in medicine.