Integrative Medicine: The Future of Healthcare is Here

By Dushyant Viswanathan, MD | February 15, 2012

I have never been as impressed with the state of modern medicine as I was during the Integrative Healthcare Symposium this past weekend (Feb. 8-11) in New York City. While the attendees ranged from acupuncturists to physicians to naturopaths, homeopaths, and bodyworkers, the faculty presenters were mostly integrative medical physicians with strong backgrounds in internal medicine, strengthened by additional training in other fields such as naturopathic medicine, myofascial release methods, and nutrition.

Besides the fact that the presenters were technically highly trained and skilled, what impressed me so much was the absolute unshakeable commitment to getting patients better. Far from the depressing reality of reimbursement-based mainstream allopathic medicine, the compassionate, thorough, evidence-based care espoused by these practitioners reminded me of my own personal dreams, and of why I entered the healthcare field to begin with.

Especially memorable was the presentations given by UC San Francisco cardiologist and founder of the Preventative Medicine Research Institute, Dean Ornish, and integrative physician Richard Horowitz of Hyde Park, N.Y. Ornish spoke of his research in healing chronic illness, particularly ischemic cardiomyopathy and early-stage prostate cancer. Horowitz spoke about pain management strategies in patients with multiple chronic infectious disease syndrome and Lyme disease. Both practitioners convey a sense of compassionate dedication to proper diagnosis and treatment, always using clinical literature to back up any claims. I’ve never seen a more thorough presentation than that given by Horowitz.

Integrative internal medicine begins where standard mainstream reimbursement-based allopathic medicine ends. The former is about taking the patient from a state of disease to a state of health. The latter is about the quantity of tests, billing, and self-protection from liability. The former is about integrating effective therapeutic methods into a comprehensive strategy that works for the patient, and that emphasizes personal responsibility on the part of the patient as well. The latter is paternalistic, aggressively treating “at” the patient, with no emphasis on lifestyle or food intake. The former appreciates the complicated electromagnetic matrix which is the living organism. The latter is materialistic and positivistic, and basically ignores the emotional, spiritual, and quality-of-life issues which are essential in the human experience. The former appreciates pharmaceutical drugs, nutraceutical formulations, physical medicine, and even homeopathic formulations, always sticking to what works with minimal side effects, in an evidence-based way. The latter has been enslaved to the insurance and pharmaceutical companies since its inception.

Most piquantly, the former will undoubtedly represent the future; the latter will clearly be the past.

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