Time for a Change
Our American healthcare is currently challenged with financial pressures (the highest per person cost for healthcare in the world and constantly rising costs), poor outcomes for many routine measurements (such as infant death), and progressive patient complaints about rushed, impersonal care. Many people use Complementary/Alternative (CAM) medical practices, not just for outcomes, but also because they are treated with respect, given time and given opportunities to be heard.
The efforts for current healthcare reform are attempting to address universal coverage (long overdue) and cost control. The single biggest issue about quality is TIME. Practitioners need time to make proper diagnoses, design appropriate treatment plans and to convince patients to use the treatments and to persist at treatments and lifestyle changes. Healthcare reform needs to move money from tests and procedures to time spent with patients. Then we are providing financial incentive for patient-caregiver relationships to really develop and for diagnoses to be considered and then testing to be ordered. Then the quality of healthcare can improve. Current reform can improve numbers covered by healthcare insurance and will try to cut costs, but only providing incentives for adequate time spent with patients can truly improve quality.
In addition: New England boasts one of the highest concentrations of conventional medical clinicians, healthcare facilities, research centers, and training programs in the world. Our region has been the home of world class healthcare innovations and institutions, and has a proud tradition of excellence in research, new technologies, and patient care. New England is also a major center for complementary and alternative medicine, with dozens of reputable schools and large numbers of acupuncturists, massage therapists, chiropractors, herbalists, and other complementary or alternative caregivers. Furthermore, it is home to hundreds of successful businesses promoting whole health and healthier lifestyles. It is time for more cooperative and collaborative interaction between these professional types of healthcare practice.
There are already functioning models of integrative care such as: Pathways to Wellness in Boston, MA, the Marino Center in Cambridge, MA, and the Brigham and Women's Osher Clinical Center For Complementary and Integrative Medical Therapies in Chestnut Hill, MA. We need more, and we need our medical schools to promote an integrative vision of the future.
Not only are the tools of practice important. Just as important is how the tools are practiced. We need to restore respectful, quality caring relationships between all practitioners and all patients. Such relationships must no longer be left up to chance. We do not put performing artists on stage without adequate preparation. We need to adequately prepare all practitioners to successfully be on the "bedside stage," preparing them with relationship skills including deep respectful listening skills and appropriate respect for cultural, individual and religious approaches to life. We can prepare all our clinicians with the skills, other than information, that can enable and foster each person's self-healing abilities. We can provide the preparation that palliative and hospice care practitioners receive for care that can relieve suffering at all stages of life.
At the IMA, we see enormous untapped potential in New England's healthcare scene. Close and respectful collaboration and a shared sense of common purpose among citizens, caregivers, and healthcare businesses and institutions of all backgrounds would enable New England healthcare to continue as unparalleled in the world. Let's work together to make it so.
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