Grant Hospital in Chicago is hoping yoga, acupuncture and other holistic forms of medicine will be another business strategy to land it managed-care contracts.
And if it's successful, the affiliation announced last week between the Chicago Holistic Center and 479-bed Grant Hospital may be replicated nationwide by the hospital's owners, for-profit giant Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp.
"We are trying to be on the cutting edge of having a network of services and this will make us even more attractive for managed-care contracts," said Arnold Kimmel, Grant Hospital's chief executive officer.
The effort, known as the "Section of Holistic and Preventive Medicine," will begin with promotion and educational classes this fall. Various approaches to alternative care will be practiced, such as massage and acupuncture.
Of the Chicago Holistic Center's 1,500 patients, just "one or two" sought inpatient care in the last two years. "Not only are we reducing healthcare costs by keeping people out of inpatient settings, we are emphasizing prevention in a cost-effective manner," said David Edelberg, M.D., a physician on Grant's staff, who will head the hospital's Section of Holistic and Preventative Medicine.
Citing healthcare reform and the market's demand for more cost-effective treatments, Grant executives said their effort will narrow the gap between conventional and alternative medicine.
Grant executives referred to a New England Journal of Medicine article on unconventional medicine last year that showed "the amount spent out of pocket in unconventional therapy was comparable to the amount spent out of pocket by Americans for all hospitalizations."
For example, in 1990, $10.3 billion was spent on unconventional therapies compared with $12.8 billion spent on hospital care, the study showed.
Nationally, the National Institutes of Health and Columbia University have established centers to research alternative medicine.
"We will work patient by patient and we will not deny coverage," Mr. Kimmel said. "With efforts like ours, we hope more insurers will be open to holistic healthcare."