What is Integrative Medicine?

Doctor Dialogue Healthy Living

These days, we hear all sorts of “natural medicine” terminology being tossed around. Holistic, functional, alternative, complementary, and homeopathic, just to name a few. With all of those different names, who can keep them all straight?

We here at Surecet, have told you that our founder Dr. Joseph Mosquera, M.D. is one of our nation’s leaders in integrative medicine (IM).  But do you really know what integrative medicine is? Or how it differs from a traditional or conventional approach to healthcare? What about compared to the other natural or holistic healthcare methods we just mentioned?  

We hope to provide you with an in-depth understanding of what integrative medicine is (and what it is not), since it is the driving philosophical approach behind what we do here at SuReceta.

Dr. Mosquera is one of the country’s first physicians to be certified in integrative medicine by The University of Arizona’s School of Medicine program, which is considered the pioneer in developing and teaching it.  The program was established, and is directed, by renowned holistic health expert and doctor, Dr. Andrew Weil, M.D.

The basics: What does integrative medicine mean?

The National Center for Integrative and Complementary Health describes integrative medicine as a practice that “involves bringing conventional and complementary approaches together in a coordinated way.”  Conventional, meaning mainstream or Western medicine and complementary, meaning an alternative technique such as acupuncture or chiropractic medicine.

The doctor-patient relationship in integrative medicine

The University of Arizona has established “Eight Defining Principles of integrative medicine,” and the first, and perhaps most important one, concerns the relationship between the doctor and patient.

“One of the most important elements of integrative medicine is having a trusted, compassionate physician who listens and spends time with you,” says Dr. Mosquera.  

“An integrative medicine physician is different from a conventional doctor because he or she evaluates the whole patient and everything that may influence their state of health — their mind, body, spirit, and community.  

“The IM physician is not just examining a patient’s body and evaluating physical symptoms or looking for signs of disease.”

The biggest thing missing in most of the conventional medicine practiced today, Dr. Mosquera says, is a strong, trusting relationship between doctor and patient.  Under the tenets of integrative medicine, a patient and practitioner are considered partners in a person’s health.

“Most people do not have that sacred doctor-patient relationship.  People deserve their own doctor who knows them, and can provide them with personalized therapeutic options and healing-oriented care.  They deserve to be informed about how lifestyle changes can re-shape their healthcare, prevent disease, and promote good health.”

What to expect from a doctor of integrative medicine

Dr. Joseph Mosquera explains there is also an important and distinct difference in the training a doctor of integrative medicine receives.  

Here are four things that set a doctor of integrative medicine apart from a conventionally trained one:

  • He or she is trained in traditional methods of treating a patient, but in addition, is also educated in more proven natural therapies.
  • The IM physician is able to understand and facilitate a patient’s innate healing abilities by much more than testing for a diagnosis or writing a prescription.
  • Unlike conventional medicine, time is spent empowering the patient about their health.
  • IM also takes into consideration all proven treatments and therapies when deciding on how to treat a patient, whether they are conventional such as a medication, or a complementary or alternative one such as a supplement or acupuncture.

It is also important to understand that integrative medicine, rejects the use of any treatments, conventional or alternative, that have not been scientifically proven to actually work, emphasizes Dr. Mosquera.

One of the most important elements of integrative medicine is having a trusted, compassionate physician, explains Dr. Joseph Mosquera.

What does an integrative medicine doctor do?

So, it all sounds great.  But what would your first appointment with an integrative medicine physician be like? How is an integrative medicine practice different?  And how would it differ from your usual yearly physical?

“Unlike the average seven-minute consultation in today’s healthcare system, an average integrative medicine visit or follow-up may require an hour, or even more,” explains Dr. Mosquera.  

“And your time with the doctor isn’t spent with the doctor typing into a computer nor talking down to you.  The length of time required during an IM visit, is due to the fact that all aspects of a patient’s lifestyle are reviewed, including questions to gauge a person’s spirituality, support, and sense of understanding about their health issues.”

Here are some things you can expect during a typical visit:

  • After questions are thoroughly discussed, a normal physical exam is performed.
  • Then the doctor will determine which appropriate treatment and therapies may be best for that particular patient.  
  • Since no two patients are the same, usually the remedies prescribed aren’t either.  Integrative medicine is tailored and personalized for each individual. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach.
  • Lifestyle and dietary changes are discussed, and an individualized plan is usually established for each patient to follow.

Why integrative medicine?

Dr. Mosquera says he became certified in integrative medicine in order to have a better “toolbox” for his patients.

“Patients deserve to see a doctor who is trained in, and understands, supplements as well as prescription medications, or proven complementary and alternative therapies, which may often be safer and more effective.  

“Practicing integrative medicine is a much-needed paradigm shift in healthcare.”

As a practicing physician for more than 30 years, Dr. Mosquera also believes something needs to be done to change the status quo of our current healthcare system and the way medicine is being practiced. “Our healthcare system is critical condition.  Worse than it’s ever been before.”

According to a 2014 Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging, our healthcare system is the third-leading cause of death in the U.S., with over 400,000 deaths annually from mistakes and unintended medical errors.  

“Patients deserve better than feeling panicked, overwhelmed, and bewildered when they get sick.  Their choice in getting medical care shouldn’t be between a minute-clinic or an ER. They deserve an integrative healthcare system that puts them and their safety first,” states Dr. Mosquera.

Check your integrative doctor’s credentials

The most important thing a person should do when looking for a doctor of integrative medicine is to check his or her credentials.  

Integrative medicine is not a board-certified specialty, such as cardiology per say, but the doctor should be certified with a recognized program such as the University of Arizona’s Center for Integrative Medicine.  

Any doctor can say that they practice integrative medicine, so it is very important to make sure they have the training and certification to back it up.

In your search for an integrative doctor, you may also come across another emerging field of medicine, called functional medicine.  This is one of the many therapeutic approaches and options within the field of integrative medicine.  

According to Dr. Mosquera, it also has a whole-person approach to medicine, but usually focuses on multiple blood tests to diagnose the role of environmental and genetic factors.

We hope that SuReceta has helped to explain and answer your questions about integrative medicine, as well as, make you eager to find your own doctor/partner in health and healing.

How can I find an integrative medicine doctor near me?

To learn more about integrative medicine or to find an integrative physician in your area, visit:

NCCAM.ORG

Bravewell.org

AZCIM.COM

OSHER.HMS.HARVARD.EDU

integrativemedicine.arizona.edu

www.imconsortium.org/members/members.cfm

www.osher.ucsf.edu/patient-care/treatments-services

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