Dr. Sara Gottfried: Access to health care is a fundamental right

Integrative Wisdom is a collection of insights from individuals across the integrative medicine community, who share this common mission: making integrative medicine part of every healthcare discussion. Now it’s your turn. Read real insights from individuals who are actively participating in this conversation.

I’m sure few would disagree when I say that our current healthcare system is broken. The majority of healthcare spending is for lifestyle-related conditions – nearly 70%! There’s nothing “proactive” about that – it’s completely reactive.

One of the greatest flaws of our current medical crisis is that we don’t help people stay on the path of greater health; preventative care is not given the attention it deserves. This is also why I believe in universal health care, which means I favor a single-payer, government-run system. I believe access to health care is a fundamental right regardless of pre-existing conditions or ability to pay, and increasingly, a majority of Americans agree. Nearly every other developed economy has this model in place, and they provide better care at lower premiums than exist now in the United States.

Preventive medicine is not about low-value or no-value care, as are found in up to 42% of Medicare patients. Often times this is attributed to needless, unproven, or harmful tests such as CT or MRI for low back pain in patients that lack neurological signs, or arthroscopic surgery for chronic joint damage. This type of wasteful care accounts for 30% of healthcare spending. Instead, I love the idea of 4P medicine: preventive, predictive, personalized, and participatory.

Think about it – a small fraction of high-value care occurs in the clinician’s office. What happens when a patient goes home, heads to the grocery store or the gym, and makes daily decisions that add up to health (or a lack of health)? This is where we need to focus more. In my experience, many patients know what to do after a clinician appointment, but they need more help with sticking to it. They need more intimate and steady care by a team over time.

Ultimately, I believe we will need to use paraprofessionals (an individual who is assigned a particular aspect or is specialized in a professional task usually relating to patient care) more in the therapeutic encounter and for follow up.

Integrative/functional medicine is the ideal model for preventative medicine – it utilizes a collaborative clinician/patient relationship, high-value and evidence-based care, with attention paid especially to the how-to and how-to-keep-it-up after the time is up in the office.

However, that’s easier said than done. I’ve been taking care of patients for about 25 years and there are times when a patient’s other clinicians are not open to integrative and functional medicine. After years of medical school, residencies, continuing education, and then finally having your own medical practice, you want to have a little authority. You recommend smart things, hopefully change lives, and establish caring and long-term relationships.

Collaboration is the way to make integrative and functional medicine available to all. On an individual level, collaboration can be as simple as keeping an open mind and finding a common language with various healthcare practitioners along a spectrum from conventional to functional medicine.

As a clinician, I regularly reach out to other healthcare professionals taking care of a patient and/or send a referral note regarding their problem list and what I am planning (testing, protocols, follow up plan). I copy them on testing that I perform, and offer my contact information. It’s more than I was taught to do in conventional medicine as the standard of care, but it allows the patient to feel that his or her team is more integrated and informed about his or her care. I would never stop a medication or start a new one without touching base first with a prescribing doctor or primary care clinician.

The average appointment with a conventional doc is seven minutes – during which they are dispensing advice and rules – there’s often not much room for dialogue or partnership. I get it. I don’t take it personally. I was educated in the conventional paradigm and understand the distrust, and even dismissal, of anything unfamiliar, even when well proven and safe.

I sometimes provide my patients with etiquette scripts when it comes to charged or difficult conversations with their other healthcare providers.

Here are some scripts that I suggest as conversation starters.

“I just read a book about how to correct common hormone problems, and I learned a lot. I brought you a copy in case you are interested. I know we don’t have much time today, but I would like to discuss it at my next appointment, and what my problems might be. Would you be willing to discuss it next time?” (Note: This is how I first read Dr. Uzzi Reiss’s book, Natural Hormone Balance back in 2001. It works!)

“I’ve read a lot about hormones and am trying to make myself an educated consumer. I read in a particular book, by a doctor who specializes in hormones, that it’s important to look beyond some of the standard tests to really understand what’s going on. Because I’m experiencing [insert your symptoms], I wonder if you’d be willing to order a blood test for me.”

I’ve also defined for my patients the characteristics of a clinician who works collaboratively and is less likely to treat them paternalistically.

  • Is a keen listener. Not in a hurry to interject his or her own opinion.
  • Stays current with the literature. For example, ask if they are aware of the latest thyroid guidelines on what designates a normal level of thyroid function.
  • Understands nuance. Do they hear your symptoms, attune to your narrative, and then consider your labs? Non- collaborative doctors prefer to treat labs only.
  • Has a right-sized ego. Do they get defensive with your suggestions? Get a bit hot under the collar when you kindly notice they didn’t wash their hands in front of you at the beginning of the appointment?
  • Has time to address your concerns. Or is the hand on the doorknob when you work up the nerve to mention your libido or irritable mood?                                                                               

Author Note: Sara Gottfried, MD is a three-time New York Times bestselling author of The Hormone Cure, The Hormone Reset Diet, and her newest book, Younger: A Breakthrough Program to Reset Your Genes, Reverse Aging, and Turn Back the Clock 10 Years. She practices functional medicine in Northern California. Visit SaraGottfriedMD.com for more information.

All opinions expressed are those of our subjects.

Integrative Wisdom is a collection of insights from individuals across the integrative medicine community, who share this common mission: making integrative medicine part of every healthcare discussion. Now it’s your turn. Read real insights from individuals who are actively participating in this conversation.

I’m sure few would disagree when I say that our current healthcare system is broken. The majority of healthcare spending is for lifestyle-related conditions – nearly 70%! There’s nothing “proactive” about that – it’s completely reactive.

One of the greatest flaws of our current medical crisis is that we don’t help people stay on the path of greater health; preventative care is not given the attention it deserves. This is also why I believe in universal health care, which means I favor a single-payer, government-run system. I believe access to health care is a fundamental right regardless of pre-existing conditions or ability to pay, and increasingly, a majority of Americans agree. Nearly every other developed economy has this model in place, and they provide better care at lower premiums than exist now in the United States.

Preventive medicine is not about low-value or no-value care, as are found in up to 42% of Medicare patients. Often times this is attributed to needless, unproven, or harmful tests such as CT or MRI for low back pain in patients that lack neurological signs, or arthroscopic surgery for chronic joint damage. This type of wasteful care accounts for 30% of healthcare spending. Instead, I love the idea of 4P medicine: preventive, predictive, personalized, and participatory.

Think about it – a small fraction of high-value care occurs in the clinician’s office. What happens when a patient goes home, heads to the grocery store or the gym, and makes daily decisions that add up to health (or a lack of health)? This is where we need to focus more. In my experience, many patients know what to do after a clinician appointment, but they need more help with sticking to it. They need more intimate and steady care by a team over time.

Ultimately, I believe we will need to use paraprofessionals (an individual who is assigned a particular aspect or is specialized in a professional task usually relating to patient care) more in the therapeutic encounter and for follow up.

Integrative/functional medicine is the ideal model for preventative medicine – it utilizes a collaborative clinician/patient relationship, high-value and evidence-based care, with attention paid especially to the how-to and how-to-keep-it-up after the time is up in the office.

However, that’s easier said than done. I’ve been taking care of patients for about 25 years and there are times when a patient’s other clinicians are not open to integrative and functional medicine. After years of medical school, residencies, continuing education, and then finally having your own medical practice, you want to have a little authority. You recommend smart things, hopefully change lives, and establish caring and long-term relationships.

Collaboration is the way to make integrative and functional medicine available to all. On an individual level, collaboration can be as simple as keeping an open mind and finding a common language with various healthcare practitioners along a spectrum from conventional to functional medicine.

As a clinician, I regularly reach out to other healthcare professionals taking care of a patient and/or send a referral note regarding their problem list and what I am planning (testing, protocols, follow up plan). I copy them on testing that I perform, and offer my contact information. It’s more than I was taught to do in conventional medicine as the standard of care, but it allows the patient to feel that his or her team is more integrated and informed about his or her care. I would never stop a medication or start a new one without touching base first with a prescribing doctor or primary care clinician.

The average appointment with a conventional doc is seven minutes – during which they are dispensing advice and rules – there’s often not much room for dialogue or partnership. I get it. I don’t take it personally. I was educated in the conventional paradigm and understand the distrust, and even dismissal, of anything unfamiliar, even when well proven and safe.

I sometimes provide my patients with etiquette scripts when it comes to charged or difficult conversations with their other healthcare providers.

Here are some scripts that I suggest as conversation starters.

“I just read a book about how to correct common hormone problems, and I learned a lot. I brought you a copy in case you are interested. I know we don’t have much time today, but I would like to discuss it at my next appointment, and what my problems might be. Would you be willing to discuss it next time?” (Note: This is how I first read Dr. Uzzi Reiss’s book, Natural Hormone Balance back in 2001. It works!)

“I’ve read a lot about hormones and am trying to make myself an educated consumer. I read in a particular book, by a doctor who specializes in hormones, that it’s important to look beyond some of the standard tests to really understand what’s going on. Because I’m experiencing [insert your symptoms], I wonder if you’d be willing to order a blood test for me.”

I’ve also defined for my patients the characteristics of a clinician who works collaboratively and is less likely to treat them paternalistically.

  • Is a keen listener. Not in a hurry to interject his or her own opinion.
  • Stays current with the literature. For example, ask if they are aware of the latest thyroid guidelines on what designates a normal level of thyroid function.
  • Understands nuance. Do they hear your symptoms, attune to your narrative, and then consider your labs? Non- collaborative doctors prefer to treat labs only.
  • Has a right-sized ego. Do they get defensive with your suggestions? Get a bit hot under the collar when you kindly notice they didn’t wash their hands in front of you at the beginning of the appointment?
  • Has time to address your concerns. Or is the hand on the doorknob when you work up the nerve to mention your libido or irritable mood?                                                                               

Author Note: Sara Gottfried, MD is a three-time New York Times bestselling author of The Hormone Cure, The Hormone Reset Diet, and her newest book, Younger: A Breakthrough Program to Reset Your Genes, Reverse Aging, and Turn Back the Clock 10 Years. She practices functional medicine in Northern California. Visit SaraGottfriedMD.com for more information.

All opinions expressed are those of our subjects.

Dr. Bret Scher: Let’s define proven benefits

Dr. Bret Scher

Integrative Wisdom is a collection of insights from individuals across the integrative medicine community, who share this common mission: making integrative medicine part of every healthcare discussion. Now it’s your turn. Read real insights from individuals who are actively participating in this conversation.

Dr. Bret Scher discusses defining proven benefits.When it comes to integrative care, a pressing issue before us is how we define “proven benefits.” There are ways of caring for people that have been proven to be beneficial. But the definition of “beneficial” may be narrow and may not apply to everyone. Just because something hasn’t been extensively studied (i.e. for lack of big-budget funding support) that does not mean it doesn’t work.

I tend to avoid political discussions and simply vow to provide the best care I can regardless of the political framework, but regardless of who is paying the healthcare tab, it is a challenge to decide what should be covered care and what should not. Integrative, alternative, and holistic care will always have an uphill battle given the differences in funding for research and the differences in approach to care. I can only hope that whomever is paying the bill will keep an open mind and prioritize an all-encompassing approach that promotes health and the prevention of disease.

The main barrier then to collaboration across modalities is lack of knowledge and the subsequent fear of the unknown. Conventionally trained physicians learn little-to-nothing about alternative, integrative, or holistic care. They spend years, and sometimes decades, learning one paradigm for treating patients. We can’t blame them for thinking this is the “right” way to care for patients.

In general, they see integrative practitioners as “quacks” or as a threat to their way of medicine. This is a generalization, of course, but I can’t help but think that increased education among traditionally trained doctors would help them understand more about the similarities between the two worlds of medicine, and thus focus less on the differences and the conflicts. If more doctors could experience the power of integrative care, and see that it can be a responsible way of caring for people and helping them improve their health, then we can start to take more steps toward collaboration.

Another barrier is access to care which can be overcome by telemedicine and Skype consults. These are an easy and effective way to improve access to integrative practitioners. The physical exam component is still a challenge, but obtaining a thorough history, reviewing lab work, and have a detailed conversation with people is easy to do. After all, the most powerful tool we have is listening.

Traditional healthcare allows 15-minutes or less for the average doctor’s visit. How much listening really happens in those visits? Not enough. But if we can take the time to listen and really understand what someone is feeling and going through, what they have tried in the past, what their success and limitations have been, then we can take significant steps toward improving their health. All of that can be done remotely via telemedicine or Skype calls. As more small towns experience the benefits of integrative care, then the demand will increase and hopefully encourage practitioners to establish local practices.

All opinions expressed are those of our subjects.

Dr. Bret Scher

Integrative Wisdom is a collection of insights from individuals across the integrative medicine community, who share this common mission: making integrative medicine part of every healthcare discussion. Now it’s your turn. Read real insights from individuals who are actively participating in this conversation.

Dr. Bret Scher discusses defining proven benefits.When it comes to integrative care, a pressing issue before us is how we define “proven benefits.” There are ways of caring for people that have been proven to be beneficial. But the definition of “beneficial” may be narrow and may not apply to everyone. Just because something hasn’t been extensively studied (i.e. for lack of big-budget funding support) that does not mean it doesn’t work.

I tend to avoid political discussions and simply vow to provide the best care I can regardless of the political framework, but regardless of who is paying the healthcare tab, it is a challenge to decide what should be covered care and what should not. Integrative, alternative, and holistic care will always have an uphill battle given the differences in funding for research and the differences in approach to care. I can only hope that whomever is paying the bill will keep an open mind and prioritize an all-encompassing approach that promotes health and the prevention of disease.

The main barrier then to collaboration across modalities is lack of knowledge and the subsequent fear of the unknown. Conventionally trained physicians learn little-to-nothing about alternative, integrative, or holistic care. They spend years, and sometimes decades, learning one paradigm for treating patients. We can’t blame them for thinking this is the “right” way to care for patients.

In general, they see integrative practitioners as “quacks” or as a threat to their way of medicine. This is a generalization, of course, but I can’t help but think that increased education among traditionally trained doctors would help them understand more about the similarities between the two worlds of medicine, and thus focus less on the differences and the conflicts. If more doctors could experience the power of integrative care, and see that it can be a responsible way of caring for people and helping them improve their health, then we can start to take more steps toward collaboration.

Another barrier is access to care which can be overcome by telemedicine and Skype consults. These are an easy and effective way to improve access to integrative practitioners. The physical exam component is still a challenge, but obtaining a thorough history, reviewing lab work, and have a detailed conversation with people is easy to do. After all, the most powerful tool we have is listening.

Traditional healthcare allows 15-minutes or less for the average doctor’s visit. How much listening really happens in those visits? Not enough. But if we can take the time to listen and really understand what someone is feeling and going through, what they have tried in the past, what their success and limitations have been, then we can take significant steps toward improving their health. All of that can be done remotely via telemedicine or Skype calls. As more small towns experience the benefits of integrative care, then the demand will increase and hopefully encourage practitioners to establish local practices.

All opinions expressed are those of our subjects.

Dr. Roger Jahnke: The most profound medicine is produced within

Integrative Wisdom is a collection of insights from individuals across the integrative medicine community, who share this common mission: making integrative medicine part of every healthcare discussion. Now it’s your turn. Read real insights from individuals who are actively participating in this conversation.

A tidal wave of enlightened citizens is rising. The cost of group based health sustainability practices (Tai Chi, Qigong, Wellness Coaching, Yoga, Meditation, etc.) is cheaper by magnitudes than treating people one at a time with pharmacy and clinical procedures. The most profound medicine is produced in the human system for free!

It is a striking fact that over 75% of disease is preventable. And yet, we spend $3 trillion annually treating preventable disease. This is a terrible and unnecessary tragedy.

What is actually required to reduce and even eliminate heart disease, diabetes, anxiety, and depression? Community based wellbeing maximization activities that are inexpensive, inclusive, socially engaging, and fun.

These potential cultural and economic changes are hindered by the biggest barriers in integrative medicine including misinformed citizens, the illusion that only medical experts can create health outcomes, policy that encourages citizen self-reliance, and the false idea that life choices are not the cause for risk for disease or risk for disease.

That is the bad news – the good news is that the human system produces the most profound medicine. Health sustainability is automatic with a few simple actions which have no cost. So, we – myself and my colleagues – work with what we call the Free Healthcare System.

Free Healthcare System

First, each person is responsible – that is able, informed, and inspired to be responsive. According to the Declaration of Independence, self- determination is the highest value in democracy.

Second, persons are influenced by social factors and policy factors. Thus, the media, legislators, and policy makers are called upon to create the context that supports self-determination.

Policy can support people, but people have to support policy by being active. In healthcare the easiest way to reorganize is to have a critical mass of citizens who have cultivated wellbeing and proven the relevance of behaviorally based health sustainability, disease prevention, and personal fulfillment.

No matter whom your doctor, what your health challenge, what medicine you are taking — always lead with self-care. You are the primary health care provider on your case.

All opinions expressed are those of our subjects.

Integrative Wisdom is a collection of insights from individuals across the integrative medicine community, who share this common mission: making integrative medicine part of every healthcare discussion. Now it’s your turn. Read real insights from individuals who are actively participating in this conversation.

A tidal wave of enlightened citizens is rising. The cost of group based health sustainability practices (Tai Chi, Qigong, Wellness Coaching, Yoga, Meditation, etc.) is cheaper by magnitudes than treating people one at a time with pharmacy and clinical procedures. The most profound medicine is produced in the human system for free!

It is a striking fact that over 75% of disease is preventable. And yet, we spend $3 trillion annually treating preventable disease. This is a terrible and unnecessary tragedy.

What is actually required to reduce and even eliminate heart disease, diabetes, anxiety, and depression? Community based wellbeing maximization activities that are inexpensive, inclusive, socially engaging, and fun.

These potential cultural and economic changes are hindered by the biggest barriers in integrative medicine including misinformed citizens, the illusion that only medical experts can create health outcomes, policy that encourages citizen self-reliance, and the false idea that life choices are not the cause for risk for disease or risk for disease.

That is the bad news – the good news is that the human system produces the most profound medicine. Health sustainability is automatic with a few simple actions which have no cost. So, we – myself and my colleagues – work with what we call the Free Healthcare System.

Free Healthcare System

First, each person is responsible – that is able, informed, and inspired to be responsive. According to the Declaration of Independence, self- determination is the highest value in democracy.

Second, persons are influenced by social factors and policy factors. Thus, the media, legislators, and policy makers are called upon to create the context that supports self-determination.

Policy can support people, but people have to support policy by being active. In healthcare the easiest way to reorganize is to have a critical mass of citizens who have cultivated wellbeing and proven the relevance of behaviorally based health sustainability, disease prevention, and personal fulfillment.

No matter whom your doctor, what your health challenge, what medicine you are taking — always lead with self-care. You are the primary health care provider on your case.

All opinions expressed are those of our subjects.

Dr. Ya-Ling J. Liou: The limited beliefs of integrative medicine also limit its progress

Ya-Ling J. Liou: The limited beliefs of integrative medicine also limit its progress

Integrative Wisdom is a collection of insights from individuals across the integrative medicine community, who share this common mission: making integrative medicine part of every healthcare discussion. Now it’s your turn. Read real insights from individuals who are actively participating in this conversation.

For patients who are looking for a more integrative approach: You are not alone. Dr. For patients who are looking for a more integrative approach: You are not alone.Persistent limited beliefs of integrative medicine along with complacency are part of the biggest barriers to making integrative medicine standard in healthcare. Every discipline or provider in health care, both conventional and alternative medicine practitioners, are guilty of this. Education and dissemination of information are the most powerful tools.

A Network of Practitioners

In my practice community, I see a growing tendency between specialties to collaborate or at least not to discourage patients from seeking out multidisciplinary approaches. The vast majority of my patients have a full network of practitioners, allopathic and complementary alike. If not, I certainly do what I can to point them in a more comprehensive direction. Yet, I see that patients are hesitant to talk with their allopathic physicians about the alternative methods they use and vice versa. It’s as though they fear they will be chided or met with resistance. They sometimes will be, and this might be why there is a pervasive silence among patients.

I personally will go so far as to encourage patients to employ two different practitioners of the same discipline if they offer different strengths. There are some patients of mine who occasionally will see different chiropractors who use different techniques and I want patients to know that this is a wise use of their healthcare resources – they are not “cheating” on me. They are using their best instincts (based on informed conversations with trusted resources) to do what benefits them the most. Taking the practitioner ego out of it is perhaps the key. That would allow for us to see that what best serves the patient is what matters most.

For patients who are looking for a more integrative approach: You are not alone. You deserve a well-rounded health care team of your choosing who help you feel empowered and not diminished.


For practitioners who aren’t sure how to integrate: Remember you have something unique to offer but you cannot be everything to everyone. Widening your patients’ circle of practitioners will only reflect well on your judgment and other practitioners will be grateful for your insight.

Want more from Dr. Ya-Ling J. Liou? Read her book Every Body’s Guide to Everyday Pain

Ya-Ling J. Liou: The limited beliefs of integrative medicine also limit its progress

Integrative Wisdom is a collection of insights from individuals across the integrative medicine community, who share this common mission: making integrative medicine part of every healthcare discussion. Now it’s your turn. Read real insights from individuals who are actively participating in this conversation.

For patients who are looking for a more integrative approach: You are not alone. Dr. For patients who are looking for a more integrative approach: You are not alone.Persistent limited beliefs of integrative medicine along with complacency are part of the biggest barriers to making integrative medicine standard in healthcare. Every discipline or provider in health care, both conventional and alternative medicine practitioners, are guilty of this. Education and dissemination of information are the most powerful tools.

A Network of Practitioners

In my practice community, I see a growing tendency between specialties to collaborate or at least not to discourage patients from seeking out multidisciplinary approaches. The vast majority of my patients have a full network of practitioners, allopathic and complementary alike. If not, I certainly do what I can to point them in a more comprehensive direction. Yet, I see that patients are hesitant to talk with their allopathic physicians about the alternative methods they use and vice versa. It’s as though they fear they will be chided or met with resistance. They sometimes will be, and this might be why there is a pervasive silence among patients.

I personally will go so far as to encourage patients to employ two different practitioners of the same discipline if they offer different strengths. There are some patients of mine who occasionally will see different chiropractors who use different techniques and I want patients to know that this is a wise use of their healthcare resources – they are not “cheating” on me. They are using their best instincts (based on informed conversations with trusted resources) to do what benefits them the most. Taking the practitioner ego out of it is perhaps the key. That would allow for us to see that what best serves the patient is what matters most.

For patients who are looking for a more integrative approach: You are not alone. You deserve a well-rounded health care team of your choosing who help you feel empowered and not diminished.


For practitioners who aren’t sure how to integrate: Remember you have something unique to offer but you cannot be everything to everyone. Widening your patients’ circle of practitioners will only reflect well on your judgment and other practitioners will be grateful for your insight.

Want more from Dr. Ya-Ling J. Liou? Read her book Every Body’s Guide to Everyday Pain

Dr. Cheryl Hamilton: Overcoming healthcare barriers must be addressed at the legislative level

Integrative Wisdom is a collection of insights from individuals across the integrative medicine community, who share this common mission: making integrative medicine part of every healthcare discussion. Now it’s your turn. Read real insights from individuals who are actively participating in this conversation.

Overcoming healthcare barriers must be addressed at the legislative level.The resistance shown by the insurance industry to provide benefits favorable to integrative medicine is the greatest healthcare barrier to standardizing all forms of healing modalities. The cost of insurance premiums combined with high deductibles has created a financial roadblock for many patients wishing to include doctors and other practitioners who utilize therapies not covered under their insurance plan.

Even though preventative medicine results in less insurance claims, insurance companies do not pay for the time it takes to educate and support patients regarding healthier diet and lifestyles. Insurance does not pay for the time needed to take a thorough history and exam or to investigate the cause of a symptom. Rather, insurance pays for prescribed medications and surgical intervention for diagnosis established after a 5 to 15-minute office visit. It is unfortunate that we have a healthcare system that makes money by treating disease, rather than preventing it. Traditional healthcare practices have been shaped by insurance. Insurance reform, then, is mandatory for healthcare reform and inclusion of integrative medicine.

Overcoming these barriers

Overcoming these healthcare barriers must be addressed at the legislative level, which is difficult since lobbying is allowed in this country. However, we do have voices in voting and in communicating with our state representatives and senators. We can also make a difference with our pocketbooks by electing to purchase insurance from companies who cover integrative medicine.

Our nationally mandated health insurance must elect to include among its many insurance providers and plans, those that offer integrative medicine as a covered benefit. Insurance premiums, plan coverage, and claims reimbursement must be strictly regulated to allow for fairness in payments. The entire industry – hospitals, practitioners, labs, and imaging facility claims and insurance allowances – must be completely transparent to patients. It is simply unethical for patients to have to guess as to their potential liabilities and coverage.

Most importantly, insurance companies must not have the power to mandate how practitioners treat patients. Sadly, some doctors order imaging studies and labs, recommend treatments, and even schedule their office visits based on insurance reimbursement.

I encourage all of my patients to become active consumers by contacting their insurance companies, practitioners, state representatives, and senators. We must all ask the questions and voice our concerns.

All opinions expressed are those of our subjects.

Integrative Wisdom is a collection of insights from individuals across the integrative medicine community, who share this common mission: making integrative medicine part of every healthcare discussion. Now it’s your turn. Read real insights from individuals who are actively participating in this conversation.

Overcoming healthcare barriers must be addressed at the legislative level.The resistance shown by the insurance industry to provide benefits favorable to integrative medicine is the greatest healthcare barrier to standardizing all forms of healing modalities. The cost of insurance premiums combined with high deductibles has created a financial roadblock for many patients wishing to include doctors and other practitioners who utilize therapies not covered under their insurance plan.

Even though preventative medicine results in less insurance claims, insurance companies do not pay for the time it takes to educate and support patients regarding healthier diet and lifestyles. Insurance does not pay for the time needed to take a thorough history and exam or to investigate the cause of a symptom. Rather, insurance pays for prescribed medications and surgical intervention for diagnosis established after a 5 to 15-minute office visit. It is unfortunate that we have a healthcare system that makes money by treating disease, rather than preventing it. Traditional healthcare practices have been shaped by insurance. Insurance reform, then, is mandatory for healthcare reform and inclusion of integrative medicine.

Overcoming these barriers

Overcoming these healthcare barriers must be addressed at the legislative level, which is difficult since lobbying is allowed in this country. However, we do have voices in voting and in communicating with our state representatives and senators. We can also make a difference with our pocketbooks by electing to purchase insurance from companies who cover integrative medicine.

Our nationally mandated health insurance must elect to include among its many insurance providers and plans, those that offer integrative medicine as a covered benefit. Insurance premiums, plan coverage, and claims reimbursement must be strictly regulated to allow for fairness in payments. The entire industry – hospitals, practitioners, labs, and imaging facility claims and insurance allowances – must be completely transparent to patients. It is simply unethical for patients to have to guess as to their potential liabilities and coverage.

Most importantly, insurance companies must not have the power to mandate how practitioners treat patients. Sadly, some doctors order imaging studies and labs, recommend treatments, and even schedule their office visits based on insurance reimbursement.

I encourage all of my patients to become active consumers by contacting their insurance companies, practitioners, state representatives, and senators. We must all ask the questions and voice our concerns.

All opinions expressed are those of our subjects.

What is Patient Advocacy?

What is Patient Advocacy?

What is Patient Advocacy?

Patient advocacy is defined as an area of specialty in health care that gives a voice to patients, their families, and their caregivers. This role can include informing the public of education surrounding a specific area/topic of care, working/participating in the political and regulatory realm, and working with organizations of health-care professionals, the educational world, and the medical research community on behalf of patient initiatives.

Patient advocates can be an individual or an organization, often, though not always, concerned with one specific group or area of focus. Some patient advocates work for the institutions that are directly responsible for the patient’s care.

Don't forget to get involved with national patient advocacy groups.Organizations for patients to engage with for national advocacy patients’ rights issues:

Coalition for Patients’ Rights  – The Coalition for Patients’ Rights (CPR) consists of more than 35 organizations representing a variety of licensed health care professionals. Although they are excellent and indispensable caregivers to a large segment of the U.S. population, these professionals, who are neither medical doctors (MDs) nor doctors of osteopathy (DOs), continually have to fend off efforts by organizations to limit their scope of practice. The CPR was formed for the sake of patients—to ensure that the growing needs of the American health system can be met and that patients everywhere have access to quality health care providers of their choice.

Covermycare.org  – CoverMyCare is a national grassroots program of information and patient engagement designed to create public advocacy for access to all healthcare providers who are licensed in the states.

Don’t Forget:

Getting involved in both national and state associations can be a great first step to discovering how you can help to serve a specific area of integrative care further.

GET INVOLVED!

A few organizations to get you started: 

American Chiropractic Association

American Massage Therapy Association

National Center for Homeopathy

American Association of Naturopathic Physicians

Center for Nutrition Advocacy

What is Patient Advocacy?

What is Patient Advocacy?

Patient advocacy is defined as an area of specialty in health care that gives a voice to patients, their families, and their caregivers. This role can include informing the public of education surrounding a specific area/topic of care, working/participating in the political and regulatory realm, and working with organizations of health-care professionals, the educational world, and the medical research community on behalf of patient initiatives.

Patient advocates can be an individual or an organization, often, though not always, concerned with one specific group or area of focus. Some patient advocates work for the institutions that are directly responsible for the patient’s care.

Don't forget to get involved with national patient advocacy groups.Organizations for patients to engage with for national advocacy patients’ rights issues:

Coalition for Patients’ Rights  – The Coalition for Patients’ Rights (CPR) consists of more than 35 organizations representing a variety of licensed health care professionals. Although they are excellent and indispensable caregivers to a large segment of the U.S. population, these professionals, who are neither medical doctors (MDs) nor doctors of osteopathy (DOs), continually have to fend off efforts by organizations to limit their scope of practice. The CPR was formed for the sake of patients—to ensure that the growing needs of the American health system can be met and that patients everywhere have access to quality health care providers of their choice.

Covermycare.org  – CoverMyCare is a national grassroots program of information and patient engagement designed to create public advocacy for access to all healthcare providers who are licensed in the states.

Don’t Forget:

Getting involved in both national and state associations can be a great first step to discovering how you can help to serve a specific area of integrative care further.

GET INVOLVED!

A few organizations to get you started: 

American Chiropractic Association

American Massage Therapy Association

National Center for Homeopathy

American Association of Naturopathic Physicians

Center for Nutrition Advocacy