Integrative healthcare, in simple terms, is defined as a healing-oriented medical treatment which considers all aspects of one’s lifestyle – body, mind and spirit. The concept seamlessly combines well-researched traditional medicine with evidence-based complimentary therapies to achieve the appropriate health outcome for each person.
The Core Concept of Integrative Healthcare
Integrative healthcare is the amalgamation of both traditional and complimentary approaches in a coordinated manner. It stresses on combining multimodal interventions such as medication, physical rehabilitation, psychotherapy, etc. with non-mainstream practices like acupuncture, yoga and probiotics. While they can be put together in different combinations, but the sole aim is to treat the person holistically rather than focusing on treating just one health issue.
When we say the whole person, it refers to helping individuals, families, communities and population segments. The vision is to improve and revive their health in multiple connected areas- biological, behavioural, social and environmental. It is not just about treating one disease but understanding the connections between the various aspects of health. By looking after the quality of life as much as seeking to cure, integrative healthcare makes it possible for caregivers to link treatment goals with improvement in the overall quality of life.
Acupuncture, aromatherapy, dietary and herbal supplements, massage therapy, music therapy, meditation, and yoga are some of the common integrative healthcare practices. Mindful eating and physiotherapy are in fact integral elements of integrative healthcare. Ayurvedic medicines, naturopathy and homeopathy are also a part of integrative medicine.
The Current Scenario and the Future of Integrative Healthcare
While integrative healthcare is being practiced at a large scale, much is not being spoken about it. Some also perceive this concept to be similar to naturopathy. Integrative medicine can help people with minor issues such as fatigue, anxiety, pain, stress, etc. and can also help battle serious conditions like cancer, diabetes, etc.
In India, integrative healthcare is not a mainstream practice as both traditional and integrative healthcare function separately. NITI Aayog, the premier policy think tank of the Indian Government, is expected to release policy recommendations on integrative medicine soon. This initiative will bring forth the best practices of modern medicine and AYUSH together to provide comprehensive, holistic healthcare.
With this, we might step closer to our vision of inclusive, affordable and evidence-based healthcare. The implementation, however, will be a collaborative effort through education, research and clinical practice.
The Challenges Faced by Integrative Healthcare
Alternative healthcare options that are a part of integrative medicine are not substitutes or alternatives for conventional healthcare. They cannot be the go-to treatment options for serious medical conditions. They are complimentary or add-on practices to the conventional treatment approach and help provide better health outcomes. Therefore, it’s pertinent to assess health concerns thoroughly before opting for integrative healthcare solutions.
The Bottom Line
With the Indian healthcare landscape evolving at a fast pace, the integrative medicine segment is also growing and can emerge to be a vital element in the entire healthcare ecosystem. However, experts anticipate that this concept might face resistance from the Indian Medical Council and regulatory bodies as the difference between traditional and integrative medicine is quite significant.
As concepts like holistic healthcare continue to gain ground across the world, integrative healthcare will soon transform the healthcare ecosystem in India.