One of the few real advances in the Affordable Care Act — in terms of actual therapeutic benefits — was the inclusion of the professions embodied in the term “integrative health practitioner” in the nation’s healthcare workforce. Adoption of this wording reflects the reality that millions of consumers have been choosing health and wellness services and those therapies are finding wider acceptance in conventional medical settings and in the military health system.
Now that the wording is in the legislation, the adherents are moving the to address a slight shortcoming: “integrative health practice” needs a standard definition.
The Integrated Healthcare Policy Consortium (IHPC), which was instrumental in advancing the language in the legislation, is moving to address this gap by issuing the policy paper entitled “The National Healthcare Workforce in an Era of Integration.” IHPC’s board chair Leonard Wisneskil, MD, stated in a release that the definition will be a “…beginning point for clarification of standards, competencies and best practices.”
IHPC’s Executive Director Janet Kahn, PhD, emphasized that, “This may well be new terrain for people working in the many agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services who will be responsible for operationalizing the new law. Guidelines for credentialing the category of ‘integrative health provider’ are an essential beginning.”
The IHPC has worked diligently in recent years to define and represent the common interests of several fields that have have been very slow to adopt the term “integrative” to describe their work. Among them: practitioners of chiropractic, acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine, massage therapy, yoga therapy, herbal therapy, midwives, naturopathic physicians and MDs who have adopted Functional Medicine. These approaches, however, are finding greater acceptance as consumer demand for them has begun to be affirmed by research and adoption in conventional care settings.
The IHPC initiative is drawing on section 5101 of the Affordable Care act that defines the healthcare workforce as encompassing “…all health care providers with direct patient care and support responsibilities,” including, “… licensed complementary and alternative medicine providers, integrative health practitioners…”
The wording from the initiative:
Seeking a balance between strongly held values of patient access to health care therapies and professionals of their choice AND proper recourse if inappropriate or unethical care should occur, IHPC supports inclusion in the National Healthcare Workforce of:
1) All licensed conventional, complementary and alternative healthcare providers.
2) All state certified healthcare providers.
3) All nationally certified healthcare providers when the certification agency is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE).
For healthcare professions that do not yet have state licensure/certification/registration or national certification, IHPC strongly encourages them to pursue state licensure/ certification/registration and/or national certification.
As a practical matter, not all integrative practices enjoy licensure in all states. As practitioners become aware of the language of the law and their professional associations promulgate IHPCs workforce definition, the availability of integrative health approaches and their practitioners are likely to continue their steady advance toward respectability.