Integrative Medicine

The Appeal of Integrative Medicine

What makes integrative medicine appealing? Advocates point to deep dissatisfaction with a health care system that often leaves doctors feeling rushed and overwhelmed and patients feeling as if they're nothing more than diseased livers or damaged joints. Integrative medicine seems to promise more time, more attention, and a broader approach to healing -- one that is not based solely on the Western biomedical model, but also draws from other cultures. 




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Integrative medicine or integrative health is the combination of practices and methods of alternative medicine with evidence based medicine.It combines conventional Western medicine with alternative or complementary treatments, such as herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage, biofeedback, yoga, and stress reduction techniques -- all in the effort to treat the whole person. Proponents prefer the term "complementary" to emphasize that such treatments are used with mainstream medicine, not as replacements or alternatives.

Integrative medicine got a boost of greater public awareness -- and funding -- after a landmark 1993 study. That study showed that one in three Americans had used an alternative therapy, often under the medical radar.

In the past decade, integrative medicine centers have opened across the country. According to the American Hospital Association, the percentage of U.S. hospitals that offer complementary therapies has more than doubled in less than a decade, from 8.6% in 1998 to almost 20% in 2004. Another 24% of hospitals said they planned to add complementary therapies in the future. Patients usually pay out of pocket, although some services -- such as nutritional counseling, chiropractic treatments, and biofeedback -- are more likely to be reimbursed by insurance.