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The Advantages of Integrative Medicine

Dr. Weil looks at the evidence for integrative vs. strictly conventional medicine. He also discusses why integrative medicine offers the best hope for more effective, less costly health care.

Learn more about integrative medicine.

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Video Transcript: The Advantages of Integrative Medicine

Well, first of all, I think it’s important to make physicians and other practitioners aware of what data now exists, because in many cases, there’s a lot of evidence out there, but it’s in places that conventional doctors don’t look or don’t know to look. Secondly, there is often not a very adequate evidence base for many of the procedures done in conventional medicine. And I think that’s more of a problem because those methods tend to be more powerful and more potentially dangerous. Another principle that I teach, as you know, is that we should use a sliding scale of evidence that works like this: the greater the potential of a treatment to cause harm, the stricter the standards it should be held to for efficacy. So, if I’m recommending a treatment, a very low risk, say a breathing technique, I’m quite comfortable recommending that the people in the absence of definitive evidence for efficacy, while encouraging people to go collect the evidence. That’s the way I would answer that.
But I have been surprised by the depth of the clinical and the epidemiological research that’s going on in the world now. A good deal of it in Europe, but a lot of it here in the United States; I mean it is surprising. There is a lot of ferment, a lot of research. Definitely, and in integrative medicine we certainly want to be consistent with scientific information. In our own clinic, at the University of Arizona, when our doctors in training prepare treatment plans for patients, you know, we always ask them to go through the literature and provide supporting evidence for any treatment recommendations that they make.
I want to talk a little bit about consumer pull through. One of the things that is going to help integrative medicine, you’ve often said, is the fact that people are simply demanding it. Is that the case? I think this has been a consumer driven movement since the end of the 1960’s and that’s an overwhelming pull. I think medical institutions have been reluctantly following that. But now I think the dynamics are changing. I think from hereon it’s going to be really bottom-line financial considerations that drive things forward, because as the health care crisis deepens, I think the wisdom of integrative medicine will become more apparent in that, you know, both with emphasis on prevention, and also because it can bring lower-cost treatment into the mainstream.