Saturday, September 5, 2009

CAM Research Survey July 20, 2009
(received 08/16/09)

Update from Sara Holmes

After meeting with a representative working with the University of Illinois Medical School in Champaign, IL to discuss trends in complementary therapies and integrative medicine in our area, our discussion kept coming back to trying to establish the current framework clients use when choosing what type of healthcare to seek. Apparently, one of the most asked questions from the traditional medical community and aspiring medical students is: “are patients seeing their medical doctor or a holistic health practitioner first for care.” My colleague thought that the assumption from medical students is that most patients who are inclined to seek non-traditional treatment for an illness will seek non-traditional treatment prior to seeing a physician rather than after seeing the physician.

I knew the statistics from my own Aromatherapy and Therapeutic Massage Practice did not support that theory. In my practice, Botanical Healing Arts and Massage, 96% of all of my clients did see a physician first for the same health issue that I was working with them on now.

I contacted both the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy and The Alliance of International Aromatherapists to see if we could add a survey site to their respective blog spaces. Survey participants were asked to look at their patient intake information over the last two years and determine a percentage of the number of patients who saw a physician first for the health problem that the holistic practitioner is currently seeing them. I must say that the number of survey responders was disappointing, but the data I received from them was both insightful and beneficial.

I received twelve responses from members of the two groups and three personal responses from individuals who preferred not to blog their findings. The results from this survey showed overwhelmingly that patients see a physician first for an illness and see holistic practitioners such as aromatherapists, massage therapists, and acupuncturists as secondary providers. Several of the Holistic Practitioners said with confidence that 100% of their patients saw a physician prior to seeing them for the same medical complaint. This is really not surprising considering the types of health issues that we typically work with our clients on.

As Karen Lee Fontaine states in her book, “Complementary and Alternative Therapies for Nursing Practice”, The rise of chronic disease rates in Western society has motivated consumers to increasingly consider self-care approaches. In the 1950’s only 30% of all diseases were chronic. Now, 80% of all disease is chronic.” I think that the safe assumption would be that the majority of illnesses that a holistic practitioner sees are chronic versus acute.

To get some idea of the numbers involved nationally, one of our responders, Pam Conrad, RN, BSN, PGd, CCAP mentioned that there are very helpful graphs published on the National Institute of Health Complementary Alternative Medicine web site from 2007. She also noted that for those interested, aromatherapy falls into the biological botanicals or bodywork section.

There were many holistic health practitioners who shared their experiences working in conjunction with both CAM and traditional medicine practitioners. This leads me to believe there is much more collaboration going on than one might think.

The big message I took from the responses I received was that people choose their healthcare treatments based on acute vs. chronic, success of treatment reported from friends and colleagues, cost effectiveness, and personal investment of time and commitment by the care provider. It is obvious that a successful healthcare system involves all of us working together. To help individuals meet their health and wellness goals both systems of care are important and must be integrated for optimum patient outcomes.

As research continues more evidence and trust will develop between the two philosophies and I am confident a new model for healthcare will emerge. Many thanks to all of those who participated in the survey or contacted me to share your thoughts! My hope is that this small attempt to gather data from Holistic Practitioners will lead us to more engaging dialogue with others interested in helping health care consumers “assert their right to choose their own healing journey and the quality of their life and death experiences.” (KLF)

Thanks for your support and establishing the means for me to do this. I could not have done this without Kelly. As small as the study proved to was a learning experience.

Sara Holmes BS RA LMT
Botanical Healing Arts and Massage