Integrative medical care

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Last Update

  • Updated.jpg This entry is out of date, and will not be updated, August 2018


See also Biomedical research questions | Complementary & alternative medicine (CAM) | Electronic health records (EHRs) | Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

"... integrative medicine emphasizes relationship-centered care, develops an understanding of the patient's culture and beliefs to help facilitate the healing response, focuses on the unique characteristics of the individual person based on the interaction of mind, body, spirit, and community ...and regards the patient as an active partner who takes personal responsibility for health" — Rakel's Integrative Medicine

Integrative medical care is medicine that integrates the best of allopathic (Western) medicine and alternative approaches. As the name itself implies, integrative medicine is holistic or unified in its approach to medical care in providing for patients by combining what works from conventional traditions and alternative approaches from Eastern and Asian cultures. The word integration also suggests the idea of valuing different philosophies and treatments and selecting those that are most appropriate for patients regardless of the health system they find themselves in. While defined as patient care that aims to use a range of therapeutic approaches, integrative care is informed by medical evidence while taking account of the psychological well-being of patients.

Integrative medicine is a growing field and patient movement, and nurtures patient-provider relationships to create new therapeutic approaches to illness. Protocols developed in this framework include combined forms of treatment, diagnostic techniques, natural and pharmaceutical therapies, and referrals to alternative practitioners. Driven by consumer demand, integrative medicine places an emphasis on communication with patients and assisting them in modifying their lifestyles to address their problems. Patient-centered care, empowerment, behavioural changes, continuity of care and outcomes are critical to integrative care.

Some authors argue for an integrated model of care that is grounded in collaboration. The idea is to bring primary health partners together with their patients to address mind, body and spiritual needs; this may or may not include a coordination with other health practitioners. Collectively, the health team aims to meet the needs of patients but creating patient incentives for health promotion and illness prevention are needed. For example, insurers need to consider costs and balance those with promoting therapeutic relationships and perhaps longer office visits. Additional competencies for physicians, including those in CAM and conventional medicine, should be developed to foster integrative practices. Learning to work with diversity, understanding various healing traditions, and enhancing communication wherever possible are additional competencies.

For integrative medicine to flourish, new providers, models and a commitment to health promotion and disease management are required.

What is integrative medicine?

"...Imagine a world in which medicine was oriented towards healing rather than disease; where doctors emphasized prevention above treatment." — Andrew Weil, MD

Key websites

(To see a list of databases in CAM, see Starting Points for Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) Resources 2012 Update.)


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