I wanted to write briefly about Nutrition Business Journal's double issue from before the holidays, before the next news cycle claims the spotlight and relegates our careful study of integrative medicine to the archives. NBJ took a close look at the cutting edges of modern healthcare, as practiced by a wide range of practitioners, and here’s what we found: All medicine is, or will soon be, integrative. As with so many of the macrotrends we are fortunate enough to cover here—healthy food, natural & organic products, dietary supplements—integrative approaches to medicine are approaching center stage in the public consciousness and even in the hallowed halls of Capitol Hill. Integration is here, and it’s well positioned for the future. It feels like a done deal at this point, even if the insurance barriers and service revenues indicate otherwise.
Why? Although it might sound simple to say it, one big reason is nomenclature. Integrative works a lot better than complementary or alternative because it is better. Many practitioners and trendsetters have found purchase with the term integrative as a gentler, softer version of its forebears. From where I sit on my ergonomic exercise ball, this progress on the marketing front resonates as true by adhering to truth. Integrative medicine is inclusive, and it refrains from the us-versus-them mentality that really has no place in the science of keeping Americans healthy. While chiropractic and acupuncture and naturopathy all have seats at the holistic caregiving table, the crucible of integration does a much better job of capturing the manifold benefits of team approaches to care with the patient at the head of that table.
Sure, integrative medicine encompasses alternative practice, but it also has room for the conventional. “People want the best of both worlds,” says Penny George of the Bravewell Collaborative, a leading advocacy group for the cause. “We work within conventional medicine to empower people to be well.” This includes funding initiatives in novel approaches to primary care and hospital systems, two areas on life support in our current model. It makes intuitive sense to approach medicine from all angles and wear whatever lab coat fits best.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA), President Obama’s beleaguered but still standing healthcare reform, speaks directly to integration and integrative healthcare practitioners in its language. What remains to be seen is if, and how, that language makes it into our clinics and hospitals, into our diagnoses and procedures, into our perceptions of sickness and wellness.
There’s $15 billion at stake over the next ten years, thanks to ACA. With a wee 2% of total U.S. healthcare expenditures in hand, what an understatement to assert, as I do now, that integrative medicine has plenty of room to grow. It’s kind of like saying medicine itself is a growth industry.
NBJ begins to map the new healthcare landscape for businesses and patients alike in our recent issue on Integrative Medicine & Condition-Specific Supplements. For more on this topic, be sure to tune into our web seminar, scheduled for February 10, 2011 on NBJ's website.