Time to Focus on the Integrative Medicine Healthcare System

It is becoming more obvious that the current healthcare system in high-income countries is not working and the cost of healthcare continues to increase.This viewpoint has been validated by a recent landmark report commissioned by The Lancet journal and conducted by 27 international specialists revealed:

  • 57% of patients in China use inappropriate antibiotics
  • 16 to 70%inappropriate hysterectomies were conducted in the United States
  • 20% inappropriate hysterectomies were conducted in the Taiwan
  • 13% inappropriate hysterectomies were conducted in the Switzerland
  • 26% inappropriate total knee replacement rates occurred in Spain
  • 34% inappropriate total knee replacement rates occurred in the United States

The authors concluded that the current overuse of medical services is likely to cause harm. The researchers also determined that there was a failure to use effective and medical intervention in several countries. For example, in Korea 99% of screen detecting thyroid cancers and in India there was evidence of inappropriate breast cancer screening.

So how do we stop the downward trend

We know that the current healthcare system is not working so what are other viable options to consider. Perhaps it is time to consider the value of Integrative Medicine. The Integrative medicine model centres around:

  • Person-centred care
  • Evidenced-based practice
  • Tailored individualised treatment
  • Improved clinical efficacy

Critics argue that Integrative Medicine is Complementary and Alternative Medicine rebranded. In many instances, they are correct as many Integrative Medicine centres operate a Complementary and Alternative Medicine referral program without appropriate follow-up system or risk management framework resulting in little or no recording, evaluation of the Integrative Medicine protocols. While many Integrative Medicine doctors witness many successes of the integrative treatment approach there is little published. However patient volume in Integrative medicine centres continues to increase which is a reflection of effectiveness. Despite what the sceptics say patients vote with their feet.

What can we do now?

A research publication in 2003 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition by Chris van Weel stated, ‘….several of the most common chronic diseases in family practice require advice on diet for prevention and treatment. A conservative estimate is that 1 in 6 consultations in routine practice focuses on diet as a main intervention, whereas many more address food-related questions in one way or another’.

Today, due to the media, ‘Dr Google’, TV cooking and lifestyle shows the awareness of healthy food has exponentially increased since 2003 and family physicians are in the prime position to provide nutritional advice or refer patients to affordable nutritional advice. So perhaps more family physicians should undergo nutritional medicine training as part of their professional development, it is a win-win solution for the patient and the doctor. At the very least medical schools should follow the route of many American universities who include nutritional medicine and other Complementary and Alternative Medicine programs in the curriculum of study.

There is no doubt that nutritional advice can prevent many illnesses. When family physicians integrate nutritional medicine as part of their therapeutical protocols great results can be achieved.