What is Integrative Care?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 06 January 2020
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Integrative care or medicine is a philosophy about medical care that combines traditional Western medicine with many alternative or complementary medical practices. Some Western medicine ideas are discarded in favor of a more holistic approach that treats the whole person. Some integrative practitioners or groups suggest that in Western medicine’s view, people may be most strongly identified by the diseases they have, instead of being viewed as individuals with diverse needs. By tailoring medical approach to the whole person, it’s argued that wellness can be better reached.

It’s hard to completely define integrative care because there are many holistic practices featuring a wide variety of traditional and non-traditional practitioners. An integrative care facility would give people access to standard doctors, but might also have nutritionists, chiropractors, herbalists, acupuncturists, massage therapists, traditional Chinese medicine specialists and psychotherapists on hand. Exact mix of other healers depends on the specific facility. Instead of simply seeing a single practitioner, many different healers could be involved in achieving wellness. Often, this “all under one roof” strategy works well, since all practitioners can meet and discuss best routes for patients and can easily share information with each other about ongoing treatment of clients.


In addition to there being many free-standing medical clinics with an integrative care model, there are a number of clinics that treat specific types of disease using holistic methods. Certain facilities exist to work with those people with cancer or with some forms of heart disease. These specialists continue to combine known best practices of Western medicine with wisdom acquired over centuries through different, less preferenced, healing modules.

In countries that use health insurance, some insurance companies will not pay for integrative care, but some cost analysis suggests that blending traditional and alternative medicine may be cost effective. A whole person approach can contribute to greater health. Over the long run, greater health may mean fewer incidences of disease or need to use insurance. Some insurance companies will partially cover integrative care, and others feel the Western model is better.

People may expect a slightly different experience when seeing integrative care doctors. Doctors usually take more time to get a sense of the whole person, and to determine which other practitioners should be suggested. Then, people might try many treatments to address underlying causes of poor health or illness, but they’re not required to participate in any care strategy they think won’t work.

If long-term relationships are formed with the facility and its practitioners, people may not always spend as much time with doctors or others. Many integrative care practitioners still perform standard diagnosis for what are straightforward and easy to treat diseases, like a sprained ankle or a case of strep throat. Yet initially, people should expect a little more care and inquiry, and in most cases, they can expect that they will be viewed as more important than any illness they might have, and that treatment of illness will represent a combined and holistic strategy.



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