Market report shows growing trend toward integrative medicine

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

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iStock photo

Related tags Physician Medicine

A new market survey from consultancy Pure Branding claims that more and more doctors are incorporating concepts of integrative medicine into their practices, a development that can be seen as good news for the supplement industry.

The report, called Integrative Physicians Market Landscape, claims to be among the first and the most comprehensive assessments of the state of integrative medicine in the US when viewed as a separate market.  The company says the survey included 1,133 integrative MDs and DOs from 49 states, the largest pool of currently practicing integrative physicians ever surveyed for a landscape report. Lists were provided by association and media partners including Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine (AIHM), Academy of Integrative Pain Management (AIPM), American College for Advancement in Medicine (ACAM), American Academy of Medical Acupuncture (AAMA), Functional Forum and Today’s Practitioner, and commercial sponsors.

The survey used the following criteria to define integrative medicine:

  • Treating root causes versus symptoms
  • Treating the patient as a whole being
  • Focusing on optimal health versus disease management
  • A personalized approach emphasizing the physician-patient relationship
  • Accounting for patient lifestyle and environment.

Nutritional strategies figure strongly in practices

The study found that integrative physicians were more likely to be younger, and more likely to be female than the overall population of MDs and DOs (Doctors of Osteopathy).  As a whole they derived greater personal satisfaction from their practices, and didn’t get into it for the money, as few reported that their income was greater after making the integrative switch. And, good news for the dietary supplement industry, an overwhelming number of these physicians use nutritional protocols in their practices.

The key findings in detail looked like this:

  • Income and quality of life: 67% reported quality of life as much better or somewhat better since beginning to practice integrative medicine. Only 19% said that their income has increased since transitioning.
  • The gender gap: Similar to conventional medicine, there is a gender pay gap. While over half (56%) of integrative doctors are female, they make 24% less than their male counterparts.
  • Length of appointment: On average, integrative doctors spend at least twice as much time with their patients as conventional doctors.
  • Timing to transition: Younger doctors are more likely to make a quicker transition to integrative medical practice — a trend that is expected to continue.
  • Adoption of integrative medicine philosophy: Despite a lack of training in integrative medicine in conventional medical schools, most (55%) integrative doctors adopted an integrative philosophy post-schooling.
  • Use of dietary supplements: 84% of these physicians utilize nutritional protocols to support their patients’ health.
  • Significance of spiritual life: 83% of integrative doctors feel that the spiritual life of a patient is a critical factor when addressing the patient’s health.

Sea change

Dr Leonard A. Wisneski, MD, FACP, professor of medicine at Georgetown University, George Washington University and University of Colorado who cooperated in the release of the study, said nutritional information is slowly making its way into the mainstream of medical thought via the work of the Institute of Functional Medicine, the various naturopathic medicine education institutes and other sources.  It’s a growing trend and one that can be expected to accelerate in coming years, given that so many of the integrative physicians now practice are younger.

“The problem is that as internal medicine does not have a sub-specialty in clinical nutrition which I have felt for decades it certainly should have, all this research information is not reaching the MD unless he or she searches for it or goes to one of these courses,”​ Dr . Wisneski told NutraIngredients-USA.

“I think what is happening now is there is a sea change in the number of integrative physicians that is now reaching critical mass. For example, if you look at this month’s JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) there is an article showing that physicians need to pay more attention to nutrition.  I would say this is a growing trend,”​ he said. 

For more information on the report, click here​.

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