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Complementary and alternative care

If you’ve picked up a medical journal in the last few years, you’ve likely heard about complementary medicine—an increasing number of health care systems in the U.S. are offering such care on site as many more patients have come to request it: It’s estimated that demand for such care has increased 30 percent in the last ten years.In case you’ve skipped the journals, here’s a quick review. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), a division of the National Institute of Health, to test safety of such treatments, complementary medicine is defined as medicine or treatment that is used together with conventional medical methods. This service line extends but is not limited to prayer, aromatherapy, massage therapy, color therapy, pet therapy, music therapy, yoga, tai chi, acupuncture and herbal remedies and supplements.

Some organizations have been slow to adopt this type of treatment, mainly because many of the complementary care methods and medicines have not been scientifically studied for effectiveness and in some cases, safety. Some complementary care efforts, like prayer, are extremely difficult to even attempt to study. Even still, the U.S. government has spent more than $22 million to help nursing and medical schools begin to teach about complementary treatments and medicines along with a traditional curriculum. The demand for these services is growing, which signals a need for health care providers to not just offer such services, but to speak about them knowledgeably in order to answer patient questions and concerns.

If your health care organization offers, supports, or is knowledgeable of complementary care, here are a few tips for ensuring successful integration and promotion:

  • Communication is key. Be sure that staff in all patient-encountering service lines know what complementary care services are offered. Get the word out by distributing a fact sheet or brochure. Make it stick by including an item that can double for patient promotion, too, like stethoscope ID tags, pens or clipboards used for paperwork.
  • Other materials to have on hand for interested patients and visitors include fact sheets created by NCCAM that explain what complementary care is and the risks and benefits involved with many complementary care techniques.
  • Offer complementary care items that encourage overall health and comfort, like aromatherapy balls or handheld massage tools, in patient care kits or family waiting rooms for patients or family members to take home.
  • Develop partnerships with complementary care providers to not only develop a referral network, but offer some control over the quality of care given to patients seeking complementary care services not offered in your facilities. Then, create patient information folders with fact sheets and contact information to offer interested patients.

Complementary care is in demand. In knowing what it is, what is safe and what is available to patients, not only are you ensuring their safety, but your organization might very well be positioned as a leaders in providing the latest in care options.

 

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“The Increasing Demand of Complementary Therapists in Manchester!” ArticlesBase.com. Web. 29 June 2010.

What Is CAM? [NCCAM CAM Basics].National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine [NCCAM] – Nccam.nih.gov Home Page. Web. 30 June 2010.

Demand Fuels Alternative Medicine Classes – CBS News.Breaking News Headlines: Business, Entertainment & World News – CBS News. Web. 30 June 2010.


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