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Samueli Partners with Health Forum: Integrative Medicine for Heathcare Organizations PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Weeks   

Samueli Institute Partners with Health Forum on Integrative Medicine for Heathcare Organizations Conference

Summary: When news came that Wayne Jonas, MD - who nursed the NIH Office of Alternative Medicine through its stormy early days until it was birthed anew as the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine - was taking the job as executive director of the Samueli Institute, one knew it was an organization to watch. This year the Samueli Institute is lead content partner with Health Forum/American Hospital Association on its 5th annual conference on Integrative Medicine for Healthcare Organizations. In this interview with Barbara Findlay, RN, Samueli Institute's vice president for optimal healing environments  -we should have more of these titles in corporations of all kinds - you can see why this promises to be the best conference of its kind in years.

ImageBarbara Findlay, RN, wears an interesting title for the Samueli Institute, one of the half-dozen most influential organizations in integrated health care and integrative medicine. Her title is "vice president for optimal healing environments." 

Samueli is the primary content partner with the American Hospital Association/Health Forum for the 5th annual Integrative Medicine for Healthcare Organizations conference which will be held in San Diego April 12-14. The conference is the premier meeting each year for insights and strategies on integration in relationship to hospitals and health systems. (See prior Integrator article on the conference.)

Okay. So is Findlay's title just some kind of new age new-speak for the head of a
maintenance and janitorial division? Findlay describes her work in a way that honors the functional importance of the cleaning person's work: "Optimal healing environments looks at the application of healing science to the real world." So then maybe Findlay's title suggests something more along the lines of Diana's role on the old Star Trek ...

Barb Findlay, RN
I contacted Findlay to see why Samueli Institute had chosen to partner with Health Forum, and play such a significant role in the upcoming conference. Among the speakers are Findlay, Wayne Jonas, MD, Samueli Institute's executive director, Ian Coulter, PhD, vice president for integrative medicine, and Mac Beckner, vice president for information technology and data management. Said Findlay: "We are saying to hospitals who have made a commitment to patient-centered care that creating optimal healing environments is the natural next step."

Samueli Institute's Commitment to Shifting Health System Behavior

Samueli Institute began its work to transform hospitals with an 8 hospital case study in which they interviewed the top 6-10 people in each hospital on why they chose to explore a more integrative form of medicine. "All of them said that it was the right thing to do," Findlay recalls. She adds: "It was interesting how mission driven they were." She also notes the importance of spiritual concerns in hospitals, "even those that are not faith-based."

Of course, mission and $5 buys you little more than a cup at Starbucks. The Samueli Institute initiative realizes that integration work needs a sound financial base. As Findlay puts it: "Those doing (integration) at the front end of the diffusion curve must demonstrate a return on investment for wider uptake in their own hospitals, and for us to promote wider uptake in others."

So what economic drivers have they found? 

  • Nurse retention     Findlay quickly notes one covered here in the Integrator: retention of nurses. By supporting nurses to provide whole person care, and addressing the issues of self-care within the workforce, hospitals can avoid the roughly $75,000 cost associated with replacing a nurse. This can add up.
  • Marketshare and other "gray dollars"   While the "green dollars" that directly impact the bottom line are the quickest to make a CFO's head turn, the "gray dollars" that are associated with the benefits to marketing or marketplace distinction, are also considered valuable. Findlay notes that this is especially true as systems are looking at the preferences of baby-boomers and the rise in chronic disease.

The Samueli Institute's findings from this study are to be published soon in a Health Administration Press text titled Reinventing the Patient Experience: Strategies for Hospital Leaders.

Wayne Jonas, MD, Samueli Institute's executive director
Developing the Business Case

A third area into which Samueli Institute is exploring with a set of "living laboratories" is retrospective data analysis in an attempt to quantify the impact of healing initiatives, including integrative programs and services. "A real challenge is accessing existing data," explains Findlay. She notes that hospitals will have whole sets of data, on patient satisfaction, on cost, on safety, on staff satisfaction, "but they rarely attempt to correlate it with outcomes from their innovative programs."

Findlay ticks off a set of "readiness criterion" that the Samueli Institute uses in selecting its living laboratory partners:

  • Integration or healing is in the hospital's strategic plan. (Findlay notes that in many hospitals, integrative efforts are "happening under the radar.")
  • Partners must have a desire to evaluate outcomes.
  • Partners must have resources set aside for the exploration.
  • Partners must have the opportunity to expand what they are doing more widely in their system.

Some of these laboratory partners will be represented through presentations by their executives at the Health Forum conference.

How About Length of Stay?

I then asked Findlay to look into what can be a challenging issue for people involved with hospitals relative to integrative medicine. Many complementary and integrative practitioners claim that their services can diminish the needs for hospital care, testing and procedures. Isn't there sometimes a conflict of interest in embracing approaches that seek to keep people out of hospitals?

Findlay paused: "The answer to this remains complicated. In hospitals where the major payer is Medicare, this is a driver because Medicare caps length of stay for payment. We also know that 3rd party payers incent shorter lengths of stay. From a safety perspective, it's simply good patient care to get people well and out of the hospital as soon as possible this days.

Henry and Susan Samueli, the Institute's founders
Program Approach for the San Diego Conference

Findlay recalls that a central element in the planning was a realization that health systems are at many stages of engagement with integrative medicine and other healing initiatives. So the program ranges from an Integration 101 course for starters, to in-depth exploration.
The line-up of experienced health system executives looks especially enticing for those of us who have been around for awhile.

Comment:  Funny how life moves. We have the Broadcom corporation and mathematician, mother, homeopath and philanthropist Susan Samueli, PhD to thank for the capital which created the not-for-profit Samueli Institute. We have the unwillingness of the NIH to have someone who is actually passionate about exploring complementary, alternative and integrative approaches running NIH NCCAM to thank for Wayne Jonas, MD being available to run the new Institute. (Jonas,
the man who gave us the very useful evidence house appears to have found a better home at the Samueli Institute for throwing off the NIH shackles and developing the kind of evidence which will most move the dialogue.)  We have Jonas to thank for bringing together a truly remarkable staff, from places as disparate as the Rand Corporation (Coulter), the University of Maryland program (Beckner) and the remarkable but now defunct Canadian experiment known as the Tzu Chi Institute (Findlay). And we have the Health Forum's Sita Ananth, MHA, finally, to thank for having the smarts to partner with the Samueli Institute to provide what promises to be both a deeply practical and provoking conference. If you can make it, and are at all feeling like you would like to, well, just do it! See you there.

Disclosure note: I will be a presenter at the meeting and the Integrator is a supporting organization for the conference. I am a long-time supporter of the work of Health Forum's Ananth in promoting integrative thinking and practice among AHA members. Ananth is an Integrator advisor.

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