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HomeMedicineComplementary and Alternative MedicineWhat are Patients’ Experiences with Integrative Medicine in Primary Care?

What are Patients’ Experiences with Integrative Medicine in Primary Care?

Practitioners at an integrative medicine primary care center combining conventional and complementary therapies assessed their patients’ experiences.

Integrative medicine is a prevention-oriented, holistic approach to healthcare which emphasizes the importance of lifestyle to maintain health. It combines conventional medical treatment with complementary therapies. Health centers focused on integrative medicine aim to promote self-care and to provide easy access to care and good patient-practitioner relationships. The University of Arizona Integrative Health Center (UAIHC) is a primary care facility with an integrative medicine approach. Practitioners at the center performed a study to assess their patients’ experiences and to evaluate UAIHC performance. They recently published their findings in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

The UAIHC team includes two primary care physicians, a chiropractor, one to two acupuncturists, a behavioral health clinician, a dietitian, a health coach, and a nurse. In addition to their disciplines, all staff members have completed training in integrative medicine. The UAIHC is supported by health insurance reimbursement and membership fees paid by patients or employers.

On joining the practice, patients complete a detailed health assessment evaluating all aspects of health and lifestyle including diet, sleep, activity, stress, relationships, and spirituality. Each patient develops a Health Partnership Agreement with their practitioner in which they commit to lifestyle changes and personal responsibility health. There is a team approach to care. Patients are supported to make informed decisions regarding which types of practitioners are included in their care team. A number of groups and classes are also offered including courses on nutrition, stress reduction, optimal weight and lifestyle, yoga, and tai chi.

Practitioners at the UAIHC evaluated their delivery of integrative medicine using self-administered patient questionnaires. During the study period, there were around 1,700 patients enrolled in the UAIHC. Randomly-selected patients visiting the center on one of ten randomly selected days between September 2013 and February 2015 were surveyed.  They were asked to complete a questionnaire following their visit. The questionnaire included 45 items asking about key aspects of integrative medicine including holistic care, promotion of health, self-care and well-being, relationships and communication with practitioners, and overall satisfaction.

Eighty-three patients completed surveys. Patient responses indicated that they received holistic care and established positive, caring relationships with their practitioners. They felt that self-care and well-being were promoted and reported a high overall satisfaction level. Ongoing research at UAIHC is examining the effects of integrative medicine on patient health outcomes.

Written by Julie McShane, Medical Writer 

Reference: Crocker RL, Grizzle AJ, Hurwitz JT, et al. Integrative medicine primary care: assessing the practice model through patients’ experiences. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine (2017) 17:490. Doi 10.1186/s12906-017-1996-5.



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