In Part 1, I discussed some of the problems that currently exist in the practice of alternative medicine vis-a-vis the US health care system. Part 2 will look at some possible solutions.
There are several motivating factors that encourage medical practice professionals, insurance companies, and the pharmaceutical industry to stick with conventional medical procedures: profit, lack of good research studies about many alternative practices, and the rising costs of their malpractice medical insurance are a few. NPR’s Scott Horsley noted that “The Congressional Budget Office concluded that fear of liability is only one reason doctors sometimes perform unnecessary procedures. Their own income is also a factor.”
To encourage more research studies, one solution could be to have the alternative health care industry collectively fund a health care lobbyist to provide the inertia for change, demanding that research scientists do more testing of alternative medical procedures. “More than 1,500 organizations have health-care lobbyists, and about three more are signing up each day. Every one of the 10 biggest lobbying firms by revenue is involved in an effort that could affect 17 percent of the U.S. economy.” Lobbying health professionals (who do not represent the alternative health industry) accounted for $70,610,873 in 2007, with the total number of lobbyists reported as 870. The alternative health care industry needs to be less fragmented and develop similar procedures to champion their causes. Of the 870 health care lobbyists in 2007, not one advocated for alternative health practices and scientific research.
Scientifically tested alternative practices that proved to be effective could drive down procedure costs for patients and insurance companies, and also reduce tax spending on those people who arrive at the emergency room who cannot afford conventional health care coverage.
One government agency, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), is the Federal Government's lead agency for scientific research on the diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered part of conventional medicine. Its most recent clinical trial results included: acupuncture for chronic low back pain; "the Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory"; "Glucosamine/Chondroitin Arthritis Intervention"; whether echinacea is effective in preventing and treating colds in adults; the use of red yeast rice for patients with high cholesterol who can't take statin drugs; whether cranberry juice interferes with two antibiotics often taken by women for recurrent urinary problems; and other non energy healing studies. What's missing? Studies involving energy healing relating to cancer treatment and other medical problems, although there was a study about the effects of Reiki; this “laying on hands” healing technique is mainly used for relaxation, stress reduction, and symptom relief, in efforts to improve overall health and well-being.
An outspoken advocate of alternative medicine has been Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who has stated that “It is time to end the discrimination against alternative health care practices." It is time for America’s health care system to emphasize coordination and continuity of care, patient-centeredness, and prevention. “And it is time to adopt an integrative approach that takes advantage of the very best scientifically based medicines and therapies, whether conventional or alternative."