January 2012 Integrator Round-up on Integrative Care Delivery:  Lori Knutson, leader of the nation’s most significant inpatient integrative care initiative, leaves Allina for new position

Lori Knutson, leader of the nation’s most significant inpatient integrative care initiative, leaves Allina for new position

“I am just starting to realize all that has occurred.” So reflected Lori Knutson, RN, BC-HN in late December 2011 on her 9-year run as the leader of the nation’s most significant integrative care delivery initiative. The work began with creation of an outpatient integrative center, the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing. Shortly thereafter, Knutson led efforts to initiate care in Abbott Northwestern Hospital, with which the Institute was affiliated. Analysis of outcomes on the over 7000 inpatient visits found, among other things, over $2000 savings per inpatient. Findings from a pilot project led to a major NIH grant. These data helped lead Allina Hospitals & Clinics, of which Abbott is part, to announce a system-wide integrative medicine initiative. Knutson took on the role as director of integrative health care.

In this ever-expanding process, Knutson and Allina became the nation’s single biggest employer of licensed acupuncturists and most significant health system employer of massage therapists. To maintain a pipeline of qualified candidates for these inpatient positions, Knutson and her team developed unique educational intensives programs (see short article here) to train-up these practitioners for an optimal role in the inpatient environment. The team began a program to train integrative nurse leaders. Throughout, Knutson, her team, and Allina have made these advances through the generous support of psychologist and philanthropist Penny George, her spouse Bill George, and their family foundation. The Institute’s 2010 Outcomes Report gives a much more detailed look at the remarkable clinical, educational and research work Knutson led. Via these combined initiatives, Knutson’s group began to build the case for the transformational pilot project for the nation that the Georges seek to make of the Allina initiative. Knutson will take a new position as president of The Marsh, A Center for Balance and Fitness.

Comment: Normally an article like this would be under People. Yet Knutson’s exit from the Institute and Allina is news of a different order. As a long-time observer of the challenges integrative initiatives face inside resistant systems, I marvel at how Knutson has continuously moved this work. Her leadership violates the core adage in hierarchical medicine that “physicians only listen to physicians.” Knutson never bought that. Thus integrative medicine’s most significant and influential initiative has been guided not by a medical doctor but by a board certified holistic nurse. Knutson grew to favor the term “integrative health care” over “integrative medicine” as a more appropriate and inclusive description of both the movement and of where the work should be headed. Now in moving to the Marsh, she is headed “upsteam,” as she put it in a recent interview — away from all the morbidity in the disease care system into the health and wellness world. Her exit is a huge loss for Allina. What mix of personnel will replace her? And what Knutson’s fertile spirit will co-create with her new team at The Marsh? Thanks, Lori, for your many contributions!