Integrative medicine embedded at ProHealth
City of Oconomowoc — A capacity crowd filled the Oconomowoc Arts Center last week for the ProHealth 2010 Celebration of Life Cancer Survivors' Day featuring Dr. Andrew Weil.
Weil is world-renowned for his groundbreaking efforts and support of integrative medicine, which is the philosophy and practice of healing-oriented medicine, addressing mind, body and spirit.
ProHealth Care has been on board with the merger of traditional and holistic approaches for several years.
In fact, the hospital system has seven physicians who have done, or are in the process of completing, fellowships with Weil in his program at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, the most of any entity in Southeastern Wisconsin.
It was due to this connection that Weil, who seldom makes appearances of this nature, agreed to do so.
"We have different integrative medicine strategies throughout our system," including inpatient and outpatient care, clinics and the Health and Wellness Center, explained Annette Schmocker, manager of integrative medicine for ProHealth Care.
Julie Larsen is a family practice and sports medicine doctor and medical director for Westwood Health & Fitness Center in Pewaukee and a graduate associate fellow of Weil's program.
"It (integrative medicine) became one of our strategies two years ago or so. Integrative medicine is really that combination of looking at the body, mind and spirit. It's another black bag of tools. I didn't realize how all encompassing it is. We're looking at the big picture of healing for everyone, our patients, their families and staff. It's a broad and all-encompassing approach," Larsen explained.
Schmocker said the combination provides additional benefit.
"It's pairing traditional conventional medicine with different integrative strategies; it's knowing those three are always connected," she said.
The movement toward holistic approaches in medicine has been growing, Larsen said.
"I think there is more awareness, and also people are more comfortable talking about it," she said.
"It's really a patient-driven movement. I think people were using these modalities, but were more reluctant to talk with their doctors about it. People are asking, what more can I do besides taking a pill?" she noted.
Larsen, who completed her two-year fellowship with Weil in 2003, said that 10 years ago it was rare to see an article on integrative medicine in a medical journal; now they appear frequently.
Schmocker said there are core healing therapies in addition to traditional medical approach for inpatients that include guided imagery, healing music, essential oils and hand massage.
For outpatients, a variety of options include massage, acupuncture, hypnosis and consultations.
At the Cancer Center, integrative oncology offerings include consultations, Reiki, yoga and acupuncture.
Larsen said the hospital has made strides to become more streamlined and accommodating from the moment the patient first arrives. From valet parking to the use of essential oil for nausea, Larsen said the approach is "embedded."
ProHealth Care has an "optimal healing community" framework that it has adopted as the roadmap for going forward.
First it defines each word: "optimal," meaning best or most favorable; "healing," to restore to wholeness; and "community," defined as people committed to a common purpose.
According to OMH, the essential elements of the optimal healing community are: patient-centered, making an optimal patient experience the primary purpose of its efforts; healing, as interacting in ways that support mind, body and spirit; relationships, being an instrument of healing through empathic person-to-person interactions; excellence, as in being the best that you can be; and self-awareness, which is defined as knowing who you are and what you bring.
"We're looking at the health and well-being of the patient, the patient's family and staff," Larsen explained. "We're looking at the food provided at the hospital, everything from the food in the vending machines to the cafeteria, and how do we have healthier foods? The hospital is helping to form a farm in the Lake Country area, NuGenesis, that's growing organic foods and will act as a teaching center.
"The hospital agreed to purchase the crops and serve them at the hospital," Larsen added.
In addition, the hospital system has been offering physician retreats and seminars to help support the doctors.
Larsen said the integrative approach helps bring balance to patients.
"There is a huge potential for lifestyle changes to help you. Even if you have chronic illness, there is a potential for healing to occur. For me, it's the concept of mind, body, spirit, the balance of the physical, emotional and spirit, or the essence of who you are," she said.
"That's what promotes healing/balance," she added.
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