Would practicing alternative medicine allow her to spend more time with patients and, thus, lead to an environment more conducive to healing?
This final question came from a young lawyer turned physician who, like me, attended a recent RAND Corporation meeting on alternative health care. It really spoke to the heart of the conversation that night and what both physicians and patients are seeking today: a better environment for health and healing.
Everywhere we look (or read), scientists, physicians, researchers, even the man on the street are discussing new insights regarding what provides the best health care. It’s the man/woman on the street (the public), in fact, who is showing the most interest in integrative – i.e. integrating a variety of “alternative” methodologies with allopathic treatments – health care.
According to David Freedman in a 2011 Atlantic article, “Medicine has long decried acupuncture, homeopathy, and the like as dangerous nonsense…But now many doctors admit that alternative medicine often seems to do a better job of making patients well, and at a much lower cost, than mainstream care – and they’re trying to learn from it.” Because of this change in thinking, there are a growing number of physicians around the country who are researching alternative health care environments and including alternative medicine treatments. Freedman discusses a couple of prominent physicians who are seeing this change in thinking first hand.
In addition, Jay Perman, President of the University of Maryland at Baltimore, and a practicing pediatrician, states, “We’re taught to make a diagnosis, prescribe a therapy, and then we’re done. But we’re not done. The patient’s environment matters. When it comes to alternative medicine, it’s not clear what the mechanism is that can make it helpful to patients, but it may be that it helps create the ‘right’ environment.”
More and more evidence suggests that this right environment may be created by addressing a patient’s spiritual needs.
In addressing the spiritual needs of individuals, Mary Baker Eddy advocated the use of prayer to address the needs of the entire individual – mind, body, and soul. After years of use and study of the wide variety of treatments available in her day, she found it crucial to producing the right environment for health. Her methodologies and the results in her day are recorded in her book, Science and Health.
Today, finding ways to create the right environment for health and healing includes – among other changes – everything from increasing doctor-patient communication, to putting decisions and choices firmly in the hands of the patient, to including a patient’s spiritual practices in their treatment. And health practitioners are finding that these changes improve patient outcomes.
In the search for health, physicians should acknowledge their patients’ spiritual mindfulness practices, creating an environment where health has the best possibility of occurring.
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