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Integrative vs. traditional medicine


November 2015

In the 1990s, a Harvard study unveiled a seismic shift in global health care, revealing that billions of people around the world were accessing complementary or alternative medical treatments in lieu of or in addition to traditional, hospital-based care.

"Traditional medicine wasn’t really helping their issues," said Dr. Rose Kumar, founder of the Ommani Center in Pewaukee. "It wasn’t coming from a place that was healing people. They were basically just managing symptoms."

An increasingly popular pathway to wellness is integrative medicine, which combines the science of traditional medicine with the evidence of the effectiveness of complementary treatments such as acupuncture, massage, psychotherapy and yoga.

"We follow our patients based on the data we see," Kumar says. "So if we give them blood pressure medicine, we want to make sure that it’s working and their blood pressure is coming down. So in that sense, we keep our patients safe by tracking the evidence."

While traditional medicine depends on data to determine results, complementary medicine relies more on individual outcomes.

"If a patient says ‘my knee feels better’ when they get acupuncture where it was hurting before, we rely on what they’re telling us in that there’s improvement."

Kumar says combining the two approaches enables a more comprehensive course of treatment for patients, more effective preventive care and in the long run, lower health care costs. "It makes more sense to heal what’s causing the problem, not just managing symptoms. It’s become more accepted because it works better. This gets to the root of why people are really ill."


This story ran in the November 2015 issue of: