The Truth is In There: Mining for Integrative Medicine Outcomes

Consumer and practitioner demand may accelerate CAM inclusion in the inpatient settings, and hospital leadership should be … prepared to engage their constituencies regarding its place within the healthcare delivery construct.

One of the great difficulties faced by integrative medicine as a reliable partner in healthcare is the absence of research on outcomes from its clinical applications, despite what is by now significant presence in US hospitals, academic medical centers, and in stand-alone physician practices.

The quote above comes from a survey conducted earlier this year by the COO of the Duke Raleigh Hospital, Richard J. Gannatta, who shared the report with The Integrator Blog which has published the report findings here..

TIB reported that part of Grannatta’s motivation was due to his concern that, “very few inpatient programs include the ability to ‘write for an integrative medicine consult’ then have patients receive integrative services delivered.”

The survey team looked at eight inpatient programs that offered at least one of the modalities defined by NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). Five of the programs had been offered for three years or more, reflecting the early state of inclusion of these approaches.

According to the report, the clinical outcomes were highly favorable. One participant wrote: “On average, after an integrative medicine intervention any any form . . . we’ve had an average of more than a three-point reduction in pain scores post treatment.” Another: “Overwhelmingly (positive), our satisfaction score for our services is 96%.”

The study also described funding sources for these services, which included internal re-allocations, grants and research funding, and philanthropy.

The newly established regime in Comparative Effectiveness Research (CER) as defined by The Institute of Medicine may change the baseline definitional acceptance of the value of outcomes and observational studies of all kinds to support decision makers.  When it comes to integrative medicine, there is also a good deal of data on outcomes drifting around in institutions, research reports, and even in insurance databases that has been difficult to assemble in an orderly fashion.  Although there have been efforts to list hospitals that include the use of integrative therapies, the Duke Raleigh survey is one of the first efforts within the hospital community to assess the outcomes of providing those services.