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Doctor no help? There’s an alternative October 7, 2007

Posted by Dreamhealer in Alternative medicine.
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acupFrom acupuncture to aromatherapy, hospitals offer health-care options

Recognizing that good health does not always rest exclusively in the hands of mainstream physicians, Clarian West Medical Center soon will unveil a facility that offers a range of complementary medical therapies from acupuncture to nutritional counseling to yoga.

The Integrative Care Center marries the expertise of two traditionally trained physicians with alternative medicine techniques, such as clinical aromatherapy and mindfulness-based stress reduction.

Center co-director Dr. Willie Sobat spent years as a colorectal surgeon. But he also was fascinated by alternative medicine. The more he learned, the more interested he grew.

“There are a lot of things out there that benefit people a lot that we’re (traditional medicine) not providing,” he said as he sat in the center’s small waiting room — New Age music playing in the background. “Everyone in the world can benefit from what we here have to offer.”

Clarian West is not alone.

Across the country, mainstream medical and complementary practitioners — once competitors — are forming alliances, says Michelle Hoy, a social worker with the center.

“There is a trend. Let’s do this together instead of in isolation,” she said.

In a similar vein, a St. Francis physician and the Conrad Hotel’s Spa Chakra have linked to create a high-end Executive Lifestyle Assessment Program that brings together traditional and alternative techniques in a stress management program.

Participants undergo conventional laboratory workups followed by lifestyle evaluations by a physician, personal trainer and dietitian. Health coaches and stress management counselors also are available.

“This is really all about getting an overall assessment of where they are,” said Dr. James Nicolai, director of the Franciscan Center for Integrative Health at St. Francis Hospital & Health Centers. “A primary care physician could do the general laboratory evaluation that we will do, but most primary care providers don’t have the time to address lifestyle issues, diet and stress management.”

The Indianapolis site is the first Spa Chakra to offer this program. The company plans to expand it to other facilities soon, said Jenna Gilcrease, corporate wellness director of the spa.

“With this integrative medicine program, we really want to get out there and help our members who are looking for more of a preventative measure rather than a traditional medicine treatment,” she said.

The basic fee for the spa-based program is $2,000.

Although not as upscale, the Integrative Care Center in Avon also will require out-of-pocket payment for some of its classes and services. Other therapies — such as nutritional counseling for cancer patients and, in some cases, acupuncture — may be covered by insurance.

The plan is not just to integrate alternative therapies into care but to include them in the fabric of the hospital, Sobat says.

In-patients will be offered center services, such as massage therapy. Hospital employees and community members also can partake of the services.

On a recent morning, Brian Wind had acupuncture followed by cupping, a Korean technique that entails placing heated cups on the skin to form a suction vacuum to improve circulation and draw out toxins.

Wind, 47, experiences back pain from sciatica and two herniated discs. The first time Dr. Siming Hummer, the center’s co-director, suggested he try the therapy, Wind was dubious.

“It works! I was surprised,” the Greenwood resident said. “I felt a little better after she stuck the needles in and then better and better for the next week.”

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