Patient satisfaction with the traditional healthcare system is in decline. Many studies have found that integrative medicine principles are often well-received by patients, resulting in positive health outcomes. (5)(6) As a holistic approach, integrative medicine combines conventional medicine with certain complementary and alternative medicine practices.
Keep reading below to learn more about the benefits of integrative medicine for your patients.
8 benefits of integrative medicine
Integrative medicine is a collaborative process that considers all aspects of patient care when addressing an illness. This can have many benefits, including improving overall health and patient satisfaction.
1. Holistic approach
Patient care considers the whole person, encompassing the mental, physical, and spiritual aspects of overall health. (9) Traditional western medicine treats symptoms and disease, (8) while complementary and integrative health care includes other factors that can influence health, such as:
- Physical factors
- Social support (4)
Integrative medicine also addresses physiological stress, nutritional status, and lifestyle habits.
2. Illness prevention
Many approaches to integrative medicine include illness prevention strategies, which may improve certain risk factors of chronic diseases, such as:
- Blood pressure
- Glucose levels
- Inflammation (1)
Combined with healthy living practices, the integrative approach may improve patients’ quality of life and reduce the onset and progression of chronic diseases. (1)
3. Long-term health solutions
Instead of addressing the acute issue or intervening when needed, integrative providers seek to optimize health and quality of life across a patient’s lifespan. Integrative healthcare practitioners can offer options beyond a conventional drug prescription and provide lifestyle and supplement therapies that make ongoing treatment more manageable for patients.
4. Reduced healthcare costs
By promoting preventative health, integrative medicine can lower the long-term cost of healthcare for patients. By engaging in healthy lifestyle habits and self-care practices, patients can reduce doctor visits, illness frequency, disease risk, and complications related to existing health conditions.
5. Patient autonomy
When it comes to chronic disease management, patients want a say in the long-term changes that may be required for overall well-being. By focusing on life-long wellness skills, patients get more out of their treatment plan than a prescription for the pharmacist. Through these skills, patients maintain more control over their health, allowing them to implement long-term habits that they’re comfortable with.
6. Patient-centered care
Patient-centered care honors patients’ preferences, needs, desires, and experiences. This vital component of integrative medicine fosters a trusting and collaborative patient-practitioner relationship. Physicians may gain more information about patients’ concerns and more accurately understand their symptoms. In turn, patients may experience greater self-efficacy (confidence) in achieving their health goals. (2)(5)
7. Patient satisfaction
The holistic nature of integrative medicine often results in a treatment plan that addresses the root cause of patients’ concerns. This whole-person approach of integrative medicine can help improve various markers of patient satisfaction and optimal health outcomes. (2)
Many patients seek alternative therapies to conventional treatments due to dissatisfaction with their healthcare provider. (1)(7) Whether it’s related to patient-practitioner communication or resistance to conventional treatments, patients with long-term health conditions, such as breast cancer, are more likely to seek complementary therapies. (1)(3)(6)
8. Strong community
Integrative practitioners often work in collaborative care teams. Utilizing the help and healing practices of fellow integrative providers allows patients to benefit from multiple perspectives and healing modalities, providing several options for treatment.
The bottom line
Integrative medicine is a combination of traditional and alternative medicine. It involves putting the patient first and taking a whole-body approach to healthcare. Integrative medicine has many benefits, including promoting patient self-efficacy and reducing the impact of chronic diseases.
- Ali, A., & Katz, D. L. (2015). Disease prevention and health promotion: How integrative medicine fits. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 49(5 Suppl 3), S230–S240.
- Bertakis, K. D., & Azari, R. (2011). Patient-centered care is associated with decreased health care utilization. Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine: JABFM, 24(3), 229–239.
- Bradley, R., Sherman, K. J., Catz, S., Calabrese, C., Jordan, L., Grothaus, L., & Cherkin, D. C. (2011). Survey of CAM interest, self-care, and satisfaction with health care for type 2 diabetes at group health cooperative. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 11, 121.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). Social determinants of health. https://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/socialdeterminants/faq.html
- Crocker, R. L., Grizzle, A. J., Hurwitz, J. T., Rehfeld, R. A., Abraham, I., Horwitz, R., Weil, A., & Maizes, V. (2017). Integrative medicine primary care: Assessing the practice model through patients’ experiences. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 17(1), 490.
- Gannotta, R., Malik, S., Chan, A. Y., Urgun, K., Hsu, F., & Vadera, S. (2018). Integrative medicine as a vital component of patient care. Cureus, 10(8), e3098.
- Kim, D., Lim, B., & Kim, C. (2015). Relationship between patient satisfaction with medical doctors and the use of traditional Korean medicine in Korea. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 15, 355.
- National Cancer Institute. (n.d.). NCI dictionary of cancer terms. https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/western-medicine
- National Cancer Institute. (2022). Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/cam