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A Future for Health Care

Written by: Dr. Landon Opunui, ND on May 29th, 2020

There needs to be a great redirection of energy toward reforming health care. The disease management and symptom suppression approach is costly and late to the game at addressing health. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the vulnerabilities of health care and the best time to change a system may be when it is unstable.

Integrative medicine (IM) may be a solution. IM is a healing-oriented approach to medicine that treats the whole person. It emphasizes the therapeutic relationship between practitioner and patient, is informed by evidence and makes use of all appropriate treatment options.

IM is the future of health care and is a unique approach Nā Puʻuwai has adopted and will continue to expand to better serve the residents of Molokaʻi.

Health care consumers are becoming more empowered because of the free availability of health information online. Patients are expecting quality and requesting their own choices treatment options.

Patients across the health spectrum are consistently reporting higher-quality patient experiences and improved health outcomes through IM. This approach works and the field is growing. One can view IM as an approach that comprehensively addresses the right medicine, for the right person, at the right time.

IM is built on several principles that guide providers in better supporting their patients:

• Both the provider and patient are partners with shared goals.

• There are many contributing factors to diseases that need to be taken into consideration. These include the mind, body and spirit, along with other drivers of illnesses such as the social determinants of health.

• Appropriate, safe and effective use of both conventional and “alternative” medicines are taken into consideration.

• Effective nonsurgical and nonpharmaceutical interventions that are less invasive should be used whenever possible as appropriate.

• All treatment modalities need to be evaluated critically and should be guided by evidence.

• Good medicine is based on good science. However, research should not be generalized for every individual.

• Health promotion and prevention are just as important as managing diseases.

• IM practitioners should model healthy behaviors and practices.

• An individualized approach to care offers precision, which leads to better responses to treatment.

The future of health care has to transform in favor of a new direction. Instead of just treating diseases, we also need to promote health. Instead of generic care that follows algorithmic guidelines, providers need to personalize care. Instead of treatment approaches that only provide symptom relief and symptom suppression, we need to also start addressing the causes of illnesses. Instead of patients relying on providers, patients need to be empowered to take responsibility for their health. Instead of health care silos, we need fully integrated health care systems that ideally adopt IM philosophies.

IM is no longer “alternative medicine” and the phenomenon is fueled by growing patient demand. It provides more tools for providers and autonomy for patients. Hawaii has traditionally been slow at adopting types of reform, but the time to offer our residents a new perspective and approach to medicine that addresses the heart of healing is ripe.

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