Integrative medicine is a comprehensive approach to patient care that considers the whole person, not just the current illness, and emphasizes the relationship between the practitioner and the patient. Integrative medicine also embraces both traditional and alternative medical care options. These eight principles are fundamental to effective integrative medicine.
The medical practitioner and the patient are equal partners in integrative medicine. The practitioner possesses medical expertise and the ability to put it to good use while the patient is the person who knows their body the best. This mutual respect results in a trusting and effective health program for the patient.
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- Big picture
Integrative medicine considers all aspects of a patient’s health, including medical and family health history and concerns about the current health situation. The medical professional and patient then collaborate on a return-to-health plan that is acceptable to both.
For example, before ordering a battery of invasive and expensive tests, an integrative medicine professional may explore a patient’s dietary history and determine that a food intolerance causes a stomach disorder. Environmental changes, such as a new cleaning product in the office, might cause persistent and debilitating headaches.
- Multiple treatment therapies
As noted earlier, integrative medicine emphasizes the use of both conventional and alternative treatment methods to include acupuncture, meditation, massage therapy, and nutritional counseling. Insurance now covers many of these practices.
Integrative medicine professionals can recommend alternative medicine interventions when appropriate. The ultimate medical plan will include input from the patient as well.
- Lifestyle changes
Often a change in lifestyle, possibly combined with a mild medicine or natural supplement, is all that is needed to restore health. Lifestyle changes may also boost a patient’s emotional health, which is frequently an underlying cause of physical issues.
- Supported medical choices
Integrative medicine professionals do not blindly accept alternative medicine or reject traditional medicine. They do their research to determine which treatments are useful and which may be harmful.
The integrative doctor supports a patient in making medical and treatment decisions. Unless they feel that a specific path will have a bad outcome, the practitioner will provide advice and facts and guide the patient to an acceptable plan.
- Remain open-minded
Integrative medicine professionals value traditional medicine and the research associated with it. Unfortunately, some conventional doctors do not see value in integrative medicine and dismiss it without reading the supporting evidence.
All medical providers need to remain open-minded when considering alternative medicine. Do the research to determine if specific approaches are valid. It is the doctor’s responsibility to educate the patient on the options available for healing and continued health.
- Wellness and prevention
Integrative medicine believes in preventing or managing health issues before they develop. Embracing a healthy lifestyle, including proper diet, exercise, and sleep can go a long way toward warding off future chronic health conditions.
Beyond a healthy lifestyle, prevention can include proactively screening for cancers that “run in the family” or being immunized for common health issues such as the flu and shingles.
- Role model
Integrative medicine is still not widely accepted by some medical professionals. That means practitioners of integrative medicine must be role models for what they believe in and live the lifestyle they prescribe for patients.
These integrative medicine principles can be used as a guide when you are searching for a primary care physician. Your health and wellness are critical, and asking informed questions will set you on the right path.