I believe one of the most meaningful ways to manage the health care crisis, that has been ongoing for 20 years, is to incorporate a holistic approach to health, as the foundation of our health care system. In reality, we have a disease diagnosis and treatment system. One that has made great contributions in the treatment of acute, traumatic illnesses, and infectious diseases, but ineffectively manages, and actually suppresses the symptoms of diseases rooted in chronic emotional distress, lifestyle choices, and nutrient deficiencies.
Would you think about this possibility for a moment: what if there was a new treatment that in research and clinical trials demonstrated its ability to not only improve health outcomes in a number of illnesses, speed postsurgical recovery, reduce unnecessary procedures, decrease medical costs, and improve patient satisfaction?
And what if it’s a significant bonus was that patients experience more happiness, were satisfied, more confident, felt less isolated without any side effects?
Believe it or not, there is a treatment approach that has in fact demonstrated these qualities. Why haven’t you heard about it in the media or had an introduction by your physician to this powerful approach?
Unfortunately, this body of research has been overlooked by most physicians for many years. Fortunately mind/body therapies are making inroads into the medical establishment.
Although emerging evidence during the past thirty years clearly indicates that psychosocial factors directly influence the body’s function and health outcomes, medicine has failed to expand beyond the 16th century biomedical model, due to the ingrained and limited thinking
Research suggests that psychosocial factors from emotional states, including depression, behavioral dispositions, such as hostility and psychosocial stress can directly influence both physiology and health outcomes. Evidence from several converging lines of research however also suggests that despite seemingly widespread acknowledgment and support for the importance of the biopsychosocial model, these factors are continuously overlooked or ignored in many clinical encounters, and are frequently underemphasized in medical education.
Whereas the reason underlying the failure of medicine to move beyond the biomedical model are complex, lack of exposure to the evidence base supporting the biopsychosocial model may be one of them.
Furthermore, while studies have shown that evidence of the effectiveness of a given therapy is frequently insufficient to change clinical practice, the generation, synthesis, and communication of research findings continue to be central tasks for evidence based medicine.
However, medical research studies have emphatically determined that mind-body therapies in the treatment of numerous illnesses improves outcomes. There is now considerable evidence that an array of mind-body therapies can be used as effective adjuncts to convention medical treatment for a number of common clinical conditions.
In a retrospective study, researchers assessed the impact on health care utilization and costs of a multiple component prevention program (MVAH). The program included meditation, exercise, and diet. Compared Blue Cross/Blue Shield Iowa to statewide norms for 1985 through 1995 and a demographically similar group.
The research found that the 4 year total medical costs in the MVAH group were 59% and 57% lower than those in the norm and control groups, respectively; the 111 year average was 63% lower than the norm. The MVAH group had lower use of medical services and costs across all age groups and for all disease categories. Hospital admission rates in the control group were 11.4 times higher than those in the MVAH group for heart disease, 3.3 times higher for cancer, and 6.7 times higher for mental health and substance abuse. The greatest savings were seen among MVAH patients over 45 years of age, who had 88% fewer total patient days, compared with control patients.
The results confirm research supporting the effectiveness of MVAH for preventing disease. Their evaluation suggests that MVAH can be used safely as a cost-effective treatment regimen in the managed care setting.
It is important for a patient to appropriately prepare for surgery. One study gave patients positive physiological suggestions and imagery. In a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial, 335 patients were given 1 of 4 different audiotapes to listen to before and during surgery. A placebo group listened to a tape with a neutral white noise.
Only 1 of the experimental tapes produced statistically significant benefits. This tape contained guided imagery, music, and specific suggestions of diminished blood loss and rapid healing. Patients who listened to this tape experienced a 43% reduction in blood loss and were able to leave the hospital more than a day earlier than the other groups.
Dr. Elizabeth Devin a professor at the University of Wisconsin school of Nursing in Milwaukee analyzed 191 different scientific studies in which surgery patients were taught simple, easy to use mind/body techniques. She determined there was an average reduction in the length of hospital stay.
Results include faster recovery from surgery, fewer complications and reduced postsurgical pains.
Other studies have found reduced utilization rates for outpatient medical services. For example in one study 109 chronic pain patients took a ten session outpatient group mind/body program. A 26 percent reduction in total monthly clinic visits for pain management was found in the first year after the program.