August 2012 John Weeks Integrator Round-up covering current news on the topic of Corporate Health and Integrative Health

Integration from the demand side: U  Maryland Integrative Center moves into corporate wellness

The headline in the July 27, 2012 Baltimore Business Journal article was University of Maryland center set to jump on wellness train. The writer notes a transition at the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine (CIM) from “tailoring its research on alternative medicine to academics” to “expanding its scope to shop its expertise to businesses caught up in the corporate wellness craze.” According to the article, the Center’s programs will focus on “developing stress management and corporate wellness programs to address a market demand among businesses and community groups for wellness strategies.” The author reports that “integrative medicine leaders at the University of Maryland Center and others in their industry say they are well-positioned for this field because holistic and alternative medicine largely focuses on preventive and wellness measures.”

Comment: The integrative health-corporate wellness connection is something promoted in the Integrator in a big way since its hard-copy form 14 years ago. My wake-up was seeing the gross financial misalignment between mainstream health care delivery and the promise of “complementary and alternative medicine” practitioners and therapies to reduce the provision of conventional health testing and services. This financial misalignment was a factor in early integrative medicine clinic failures. What hospital CFO was going to push system resources behind services that would rob a more lucrative Peter to guarantee the relative revenue trickle from an integrative Paul?

Sean Sullivan, JD, the founding director of the National Business Coalition on Health and now CEO of the Institute for Health and Productivity Management, captured the important of this shift in focus from health system integration to integration into employer programs for me. In a 1999 Integrator interview, Sullivan suggested that “CAM” and integrative financial models might look best if integration was “approached from the demand side.” The big money in integrative medicine is in saving money for payers: employers, government agencies and users. Operators of integrative centers will find more potential for economic alignment via partnerships with the corporate world.

As obvious as this is, with the pain of lost business on the health system side and potential for cost savings on the employer side, almost no academic integrative medicine leaders have steered their initiatives toward this harbor. The exception is the Corporate Health Improvement Program founded by Ken Pelletier, PhD, MD (hc) and with which CIM founder Brian Berman, MD has been affiliated. Good to see the U Maryland team engaging this relationship in earnest. 

 

Book from Tai-Sophia co-founder Robert Duggan focuses on “Reducing Health-Care Costs in Corporate America”

The new book by Robert Duggan, MA, MAc, Dipl. NCCAOM is entitled Breaking the Iron Triangle: Reducing Health-Care Costs in Corporate America. The release announcing the second book by the co-founder of Tai Sophia Institute, holds a grand promise. This “accessible, practical guidance for avoiding national bankruptcy while improving well-being” is presented as outlining “a sustainable health care model that can eliminate 70% of unnecessary medical visits.” Duggan views a wellness model as an economic necessity. He believes, according to the release, that “the cost structures of American health care cannot be changed without re-examining the fundamental assumptions about what it means to be healthy.” It adds: “Only by shifting the focus of health-care dollars from disease management to empowering individual wellness can costs be reduced effectively while expanding the quality of healthcare – and life.” Duggan brings 40 years of leadership in integrative health to this book.” It is published by Wisdom Well Press and available as an e-book via Amazon.com. 

Comment: Duggan and I met in 1995 after the NIH Office of Alternative Medicine director Wayne Jonas, MD contracted with me to prepare a paper on operational issues relative to “CAM” integration and ask Duggan to be on a discussant panel. I focused on management models with insurers, Duggan on the bigger wellness picture. He has steadfastly adhered to this view, distinguishing Tai Sophia as an “academic wellness institution.” Duggan has particularly upset members of the acupuncture and Oriental medicine field who push for higher professional and medical/doctoral status when he has suggested, with tongue only partly in cheek, that acupuncturists, at their health and wellness best, should be regulated through Parks and Recreation rather than as health care/medical providers.

Duggan, a mentee of Medical Nemisis author Ivan Illich, has for years brought a radical wellness corrective push to the disease management drift of the integration dialogue. Observing as he has the movement toward the dominant school’s reactivity, despite prevention and health-focused principles of the integrative health fields, Duggan’s perspective is a refreshing if sometimes discomforting jolt. I’d qualify my own relationship with Duggan as one filled with “dynamic tension.” Breaking the Iron Triangle promises “part policy, part prescription, and all common sense.” Prospective readers will be served, rather, to anticipate a book that reflects Duggan’s quite uncommon sense that I have observed in our professional exchanges over this 17 years.