Health Care Study

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The University of Arizona Integrative Health Center in Phoenix is undertaking a new study to determine the effectiveness of a whole-person approach to health care. The three-year Integrative Medicine Primary Care Trial (IMPACT) will compare outcomes for patients treated using integrative care with patients treated using solely conventional medical care. Dr. Heidi Rula, medical director for the U of A Integrative Health Center, will discuss the study.

Ted Simons: The University of Arizona integrative health center in Phoenix is starting a new study to compare outcomes for patients treated using integrative medical care with patients treated only using conventional care. Here to talk about the study is Dr. Heidi Rula, medical director for the integrative health center at U of A. Thank you for joining us. Is that what you're going to be looking at, a compare?

Heidi Rula: What we want to look at is to compare the health outcomes for patients who are receiving integrative care, primary care, versus those who are receiving conventional medical care. To date there have been no well-designed research studies comparing integrative medicine to conventional medicine. It's our belief patients will have better outcomes, both health and health care financially, and so we really are looking to put together a study to be able to develop data to prove this information.

Ted Simons: Define integrative medical care.

Heidi Rula: Integrative medicine is whole person medicine. It is really addressing the person's mind, body, spirit, really going into lifestyle issues, developing a partnership with a patient. Where the patient and the physician work together as partners. It is also a medicine where we have collaborative care, working together as a team versus having the physician direct the patient's care.

Ted Simons: With that in mind, define conventional medical care.

Heidi Rula: So conventional medical care is generally accepted as being kind of western standard medical care that's delivered here in the United States.

Ted Simons: So how -- When you do this study, you have the integrative care, the whole person is how you described it, the whole person care with conventional care. -- Don't they mix often, or do they not necessarily mix?

Heidi Rula: Integrative medicine is about combining evidence-based therapies both from the conventional and from either complementary or alternative medicine worlds. So it's really saying there's value in all these forms of healing, and looking for the best. And looking for options for patients because not everybody is going to have the same treatment plan. So the more that you can have in terms of different healing modalities, the more likely you are to have a match for that patient.

Ted Simons: Basically, sounds like it opens up the horizon, opens up possibilities that may not have been opened before?

Heidi Rula: Absolutely. Obviously giving you more as well as seeing the patient as a whole. So seeing the patient as not only he's -- Energy medicine, things like acupuncture, and healing touch, and things like that. So we are acknowledging that there's an energetic piece to a patient's health, we are acknowledging that there's a spiritual aspect to a patient's health. Those are things that in conventional medicine we tend to look at the -- At a patient more on a biochemical level that if this is out of whack we give this. A drug for this, and so this is understanding that there is kind of more to health than just the biochemistry.

Ted Simons: Have there been a reluctance in conventional medicine, American medicine, if you will, to consider seriously integrative medicine?

Heidi Rula: I think there's a lot -- There's been some pushback on really looking at this as evidence-based medicine. Some of these things are really outside of the realm of what most people have been experienced in their medical school training. So to kind of accept some of the concepts, just like energy medicine that that play as role in health, these are things that most physicians haven't interfaced with. To look at that piece sometimes can sometimes people might see it as more WOO-WOO medicine, and not really based in science. But the wonderful thing about integrative medicine is that there's more and more research being developed looking at the effects of these different forms of healing and how they really alter a patient's biochemistry. So that I think more of the conventional physicians can start understanding it as to how it's going to impact the patient's health when you actually have a study showing that impact.

Ted Simons: So talk about the study. How long is it going to be, who's going to be involved and how exactly do you compare and contrast?

Heidi Rula: So this study has been designed by the University of Arizona center for integrative medicine to really measure the both financial and health impact of integrative medicine in the primary care setting. We are looking to study a number of different health measures, looking at not only things like how well our patients chronic medical conditions handle, what is the patient's satisfaction in receiving integrative medicine versus conventional medicine, what their quality of life, what is their health care utilization, where their health care costs? And so that's going to be accomplished by looking right now Maricopa County and police are eligible to be voluntarily enrolled in our study and we're also looking at working with other corporate settings where they could do something similar. But what we're going to do is look at those measures and compare them to the claims data on patients -- Which is all an anonymous type of setting, but we're going to look at the claims data at patients receiving conventional care, be able to look at how somebody does in the integrative arena versus how somebody does in the conventional arena.

Ted Simons: When it's all said and done, when you get your facts, your figures, how do you utilize this information? How do you implement -- Will it mean implementing changes?

Heidi Rula: Well, the reason we really wanted to do this study was that we feel that the current model of health care is broken. That right now health care costs are skyrocketing. To an unsustainable level. We have developed a new model of health care that we feel patients will have better outcomes with. But we really needed the evidence to be able to demonstrate that. So this is going to serve as collecting that initial data to take to policymakers, to be able to have a conversation to say that, yes, if you really spend money on the front side, if you look at prevention and having patients be able to spend time with their physicians and this whole-person medicine, those patients will do better and cost the system less. Right now we're very much a disease kind of oriented type of health care system. So we wait until people get sick. And then we go out and spend a lot of time money on delivering care once they've developed a disease. We want to roll that back and really kind of focus on prevention, so that patients don't develop a disease. There's a lot that can be done in the prevention arena that we think can have a huge impact on this health care epidemic that we're having with obesity, heart disease, infant mortality, all of these things we see as being a problem with our system and really kind of having a real lifestyle issue to our country that is not being addressed in our current model of health care.

Ted Simons: We'll keep an eye on this. It sounds like fascinating information. Thank you so much for joining us.

Dr. Heidi Rula:U of A Integrative Health Center, Medical Director;

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