Integrating the evidence for integrative healthcare

The Albert Einstein College of Medicine is incorporating complementary healthcare, including yoga therapy, into programs for both patients and medical students:

“There are many approaches outside the realm of conventional medicine that we now know work….By taking a scientific approach to complementary therapies, we can more clearly define how they work and where they work. As these move into mainstream healthcare, we’re becoming more rigorous about knowing what parts work, and what to leave behind.”

Benjamin Kligler, MD, is the founding medical director of Einstein’s Continuum Center for Health and Healing, where previously “alternative” modalities are becoming more routine. Of the school’s integrative medicine curriculum, Kligler says,

“There is a commitment to an evidence-based approach and critical thinking we take…Instead of teaching this as some esoteric branch of medicine, we’re saying, ‘look at the science.’ As clinicians and as doctors we have to learn how to make sense of what the science is telling us.”

Yoga therapy was part of Einstein’s approach for a study on improving the care of patients with cancer:

“[O]ne cancer-care floor at Beth Israel was converted into an ‘optimal healing environment.’ The project included remodeling the physical space; training the nursing staff in holistic techniques, such as relaxation therapies and imagery; and the presence of yoga therapists on the unit to work one-on-one with patients. The research program investigated whether the intervention improved the patient’s quality of life as well as what impact it had on length-of-stay and medication use in relation to cost of care.”

The hospital found that it saved about $150 per patient per day, but more importantly, those patients had less pain and anxiety, improved mood and quality of life, and used fewer medications—meaningful whole-person effects that point the way toward more integration and patient choice in the future.