A Newsweek headlined barked "Take two eyes of newt and call me in the morning." The New England Journal of Medicine says out-of-pocket expenditures for unconventional therapy easily exceed $10 billion a year. The Healthcare Forum Journal speaks of the mainstreaming of alternative medicine.
And now a struggling inner-city hospital recently acquired by investor-owned powerhouse Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. is affiliating with a holistic medicine facility.
Grant Hospital, located in the bed-bloated North Side of Chicago, hopes its link with Chicago Holistic Center will attract new revenues from patients interested in a preventive, organic approach to healthcare (July 25, p. 10).
These Columbia/HCA strategists aren't dummies. If it takes yoga, acupuncture, seminars and other holistic planks to build an integrated delivery network, then so be it.
In fact, alternative therapy could spark a more sensible, cost-effective approach for certain patients. If the Grant experiment proves fruitful, it could be replicated in other Columbia/HCA markets. Meanwhile, the leadership and risk-taking exercised by the multibillion-dollar hospital chain could prompt more employers, insurers and managed-care plans to consider alternative medicine options.
But what payers and providers really need is more evidence of the efficacy of unconventional treatment. We're encouraged that the National Institutes of Health and Columbia University have established centers to research alternative medicine.
It's clear that health-conscious Americans are interested in alternatives to operating and testing. Now it's time for the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association and other professional groups to explore and evaluate the turf. A study on member attitudes and use of alternative treatments is an obvious starting point.