by Kristen E. Porter, MAc, LAc
Executive Director, Pathways to Wellness
What happens when east meets west in medicine?
Judging by the partnership between Pathways to Wellness and the South End Community Health Center (SECHC), what happens is improved, comprehensive treatment for patients.
Integrative care doesn’t just happen. In the case of Pathways and SECHC, it’s the result of a well-planned collaboration focused on education, open communication, practical processes, and shared experience.
To ensure success, in advance of Pathways recent move into new facilities at SECHC, the two organizations empowered joint integration teams, one focusing on clinical and one on culture issues. These teams identify opportunities for augmenting and complementing treatment services.
The Clinical Team focuses on understanding the conditions that can most benefit from combining eastern and western treatment therapies. This team also defines procedures for cross-referring patients so that access to both eastern and western treatments is streamlined.
The Cultural Team helps both organizations understand and appreciate the range of services available. For example, when Pathways first relocated to SECHC, the Cultural Team sponsored an open house for staff and clients, bringing together professionals from both organizations to learn about and experience treatments such as acupuncture and shiatsu bodywork. Easy access to, and comfort with, people and services is important in building strong working relationships.
Dr. Jack Maypole, director of pediatrics at SECHC and a Clinical Team member, says that he first became involved in integrative medicine projects while still a resident. “I became a kind of consultant on integrative medicine. When patients wanted to understand if a treatment could add value, I would learn about it, review the goals and see how it fit. And often, it helped.”
“There’s an advantage for both patients and providers having all services available under one roof,” says Dr. Maypole. ”For patients, access to all treatment is more convenient and for providers, proximity breeds familiarity breeds understanding. It makes us all more sensitive to how each approach enhances the other.”
While use of complementary and alternative medicine continues to grow, according to the National Institutes of Health most patients prefer to combine alternative medicine with western medical treatments, validating the Pathways model of partnering with SECHC to deliver services.
This partnership gives patients and their medical service providers easy access to more treatment tools than ever before. By combining and leveraging the good effect of all therapies, patients win, andhealthier patients are the ultimate measure of success.
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