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Welcome IHPM as Integrator Sponsor: Fostering the Employer-Integrative Health Care Link PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Weeks   

Welcome IHPM as Integrator Sponsor! Fostering the Employer-Integrative Health Care Link

Summary:  The uptake of complementary, alternative and integrative medicine into US medicine has suffered from a lack of economic alignment with the disease focus of major stakeholders. The exception to this rule is the progressive employer. Smart employers recognize that a healthy employee produces a myriad of measurable economic benefits to the company. So it is with particular pleasure I welcome the not-for-profit Institute for Health and Productivity Management, an organization of large employers exploring health-enhancing employee strategies, as an Integrator sponsor. Here is background on the relationship. Join us in Orlando, March 31-April 2 for the first in a series of special gatherings to explore shared interests, values and benefits.
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Increase Your Understanding of Employer Interests & Outcomes Strategies:
Attend the IHPM Conference and CAIM Track:

March 31-April 2, 2008 - Orlando, Florida. Click here for details!

1.    Background on the IHPM Sponsorship: Finding an Economic Stakeholder Committed to Health


employers, CAM, integrative medicine,
Institute for Health and Productivity Management
Some of you will recall that my principal role as journalist in this field, particularly in the late 1990s, was to track emerging business models, dig up cost and effectiveness-oriented research and then report best practices. The emerging field (and thus this reporter) encountered significant problems. We butted against in-hospitable hospital systems, failure events in sponsored integrative clinics and reductive research priorities which cast little light on practical cost and effectiveness issues (and even less light on health creation). Oh yes, there were also the typically imagination-deprived (with rare exceptions) insurance companies.

   
 
The question arose:
Is there a monied
stakeholder, beside
the consumer, to work
with integrative and
natural health care
to drive an exploration
of health?

Early experiences forced a deeper reflection. The bottom-line turned out to be a significant mis-alignment of interests. We have a National Institutes of Disease (with no operating definition of health) which supports a tertiary care-addicted hospital and disease system which is sustained by insurance models which most honor disease specialists. To be blunt, work as an agent of health creation in any of those environments is to often feel one is working covertly, behind enemy lines. Sure, you can find friends, and even grow your networks. But the environment is typically hostile, supply lines always a problem and ground hard-gained.

Money talks. Money drives interest and exploration. We all know this. Yet here were all of these monied interests deeply invested in supplying services - care, research and payment - inside the business models of the entrenched system. What economic interest do these have in "transformation" or "changing the paradigm" from reaction to prevention? Read: Taking money out of my hands and skills sets and putting it in the hands of others.] The question rose: Is there a monied interest, besides the consumer, to drive an exploration of health?

2.   IHPM Co-Founder Sean Sullivan: A Consumer-Employer Demand Side Alliance on Integration?

In late 1999, Raven Ruffner, now deceased but then an executive assistant to Sean Sullivan, the co-founder of the Institute for Health and Productivity Management suggested that Sullivan and I speak. Ruffner was a complementary medicine user and a subscriber to my hard-copy newsletter, the Integrator for the Business of Alternative Medicine.

NBCH, IHPM, integrative medicine, CAIM, CAM
Sean Sullivan, JD, IHPM co-founder
At Ruffner's urging - no doubt on both our ends - I got Sullivan, the original CEO of the National Business Coalition on Health, on the phone. We danced an awkward alternative medicine/large employer dance for a moment, trying to establish why exactly we were speaking. Then Sullivan used a phrase that captured and clarified the dilemma facing health-oriented healthcare interests. I quoted Sullivan in the December 1999 of the Integrator issue this way:
"We [at the Institute for Health and Productivity Management] are coming at [the integration potential] from the demand side rather than the supply side. We're hearing from a number of our employer members that they very much want to look at the base of consumer interest in CAM and see how it fits their desire for a healthier and more productive workforce. The [conventional] system is going to have to accommodate it." [bold added]
Something clicked for me. The problem with supply-side integration (research, delivery, payment) is that one is asking these stakeholders to lose economically or professionally. On the demand side - with the consumer (where natural health care interest began) and the employer - one approaches a partner who may have a good deal to gain. What a happy alternative! The promised land? The potential for an actual alignment!

3.   Purpose of the IHPM-Integrator Relationship

Here is the "purpose" which IHPM and I defined for our work together:

Researchers, educators and clinician associated with complementary, alternative and integrative medicine (CAIM) assert that their paradigm of whole person care is distinct from conventional medicine in assisting a patient toward functionality and health rather than reaction to disease.

Can the clinical approaches of acupuncturists, massage therapists, chiropractors, naturopathic physicians, mind-body specialists and integrative medical doctors assist employers in achieving these economic and healthcare objectives? A growing cadre of employers interested in health and productivity management (HPM) believes that integrative medicine is a natural direction for HPM.
Researchers may find value in these relationships, discovering new measures and approaches. Integrative clinic leaders may be exploring how they might best partner. Professional associations may see this as an emerging frontier and wish to ensure they are present. The IHPM-Integrator relationship is dedicated to sparking interest, understanding, and best practices, between forward-thinking explorers in all these stakeholder groups.
4.    Elements of the IHPM Sponsorship of the Integrator: Jump-Starting a Relationship

CAM, integrative medicine
Cathy Baase, MD, IHPM co-founder
As noted in an earlier article here, Sullivan participated in a series of Integrative Medicine Industry Leadership Summits (2000-2002) and on a board of an organization I was involved in starting in 2001. We reconnected last Fall. Working together with IHPM's executive vice president Deborah Love, and an early advisor to hte Institute, Cathy Baase, MD, a global director of health for Dow Chemical, we have cooked up a relationship which is meant to energize the employer-integrative medicine partnership. Happily, we are all involved in some fashion with the Corporate Health Improvement Project founded by Kenneth R. Pelletier, PhD, MD (hc), reported here. Cross-fertilization can be maximized. Here are elements:

  • Assumption:  Neither party knows the other very well. Good information and relationship-building are necessary starting places.
  • Information about employer think:  I will be reporting more regularly on employer issues in the Integrator, in other columns (Integrative Practitioner Online, Integrative Medicine: A Clinician's Journal) and elsewhere. A part will be educational, about the way employers are thinking and measuring outcomes.
  • Information for employers about complementary healthcare/integrative medicine I will be working with IHPM to provide its employer members with good information about the integrative healthcare community through IHPM's magazines and e-newsletters such as the Journal of Health and Productivity Management.
  • Pilot projects  A priority will be placed on pilot projects, with outcomes, from complementary and integrative medicine corporate health projects. Let me know if you have any data or experience to share. Examples are the Chrysler/Henry Ford Health System and the Ford Motor/acupuncture trial.
  • Convening/conferences  I will assist IHPM with a CAIM (complementary, alternative and integrative medicine) track at its two main US conferences this year - in Orlando, March 31-April 2, and in Scottsdale, October 15-17. These will be excellent opportunities for each party to go to school on, and network with, those involved with the other stakeholder.

What we do will in part be a function of what you bring to this. As the poet Phillip Levine put it: What we get is what we bring. Let me know your ideas.

5.   Opening to the Global Value of Health to an Employer

When Sullivan started IHPM a decade ago with the idea that employee health needed to be viewed as an investment, rather than merely a cost center, he was taking a risk. Now the language of health and productivity management, and of the core concept of presenteeism - essentially a productivity measure - are catching on widely.

Now, according to one of his early and current advisors Cathy Baase, MD, an internationally known health management leader with Dow Chemical (yes, Dow Chemical), Sullivan and IHPM are out front again. Baase, who will co-moderate the CAIM Track with me at the March 31-April 2 IHPM conference, is confident that additional value will be found in these relationships. Her words, quoted in an earlier Integrator piece, capture the deep economic potential in health creation:
What we discovered, when we looked at disability costs, when we looked at absenteeism, when we looked at a person’s happiness on the job, at a person's ability to be a good team player, at their productivity on the job, at things like depression, and even when we looked at medical costs, we found that the driving force, in the direction we wanted to move things, is the health of the employee.
If you relish the idea of actually focusing on health - what these fields have always said is their strength - then, enjoy and take part in this ride. Come down to Orlando, get an education in a conference which will be laced with discussion opportunities. And join with me in thanking Sullivan, Love and IHPM for choosing to explore these paths through Integrator sponsorship.

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for inclusion in a future Your Comments Forum.


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