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Worried about the staggering costs of health care? Then stay healthy!

Free Press Article- September 4, 2013  April L. Schulte-Barclay

The high cost of health care has been on the minds of most Americans a lot lately, and most of us are in the same boat. Whether you are healthy or ill, insured or uninsured, for Health Care Reform or against it, most people prefer to live life as healthy as possible and would prefer to use their financial resources in many places other than sick care. It is possible to increase the chances of fattening your pocketbook while increasing your health potential and that is to actively make conscious choices to maintain health.

Stay healthy. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Being a healthcare practitioner for nearly 10 years in the Grand Valley and having seen more than a thousand patients, I know that maintaining and achieving health is not as simple as eating broccoli and taking nightly walks (although both will go a long way toward helping). Rather, our emotional, mental and physical health are entwined.

I know from my own personal healthcare experiences that sometimes we are not the most objective guides in terms of directing our own care without help from an objective professional or group of professionals. We simply are often too emotionally connected to how we are feeling, in too much pain, or enduring too much suffering to make rational health care decisions for ourselves. Therefore, developing a relationship with a team of health care professionals who you can trust is of utmost importance. At Healing Horizons, we focus on providing collaborative and integrative health care to help our patients navigate their own health. Lately, buzzwords such as “collaborative” and “integrative” are thrown around as catchy phrases because they may sound cool. What do those words actually mean?

Practicing collaboratively means that practitioners regularly communicate regarding each individual patient’s unique health care needs. Ideas regarding the most efficient and effective ways to achieve health goals are bounced around until a plan is rendered. From there, the plan is presented to the patient for feedback and input. Collaborative care demands that practitioners and patients alike actively follow the designed plan as a partnership. It also recognizes that achieving health involves working toward mental, emotional and physical health together; and each of those concepts can be addressed via multiple modalities of care.

For example, Chinese medicine may treat depression by first ensuring one’s digestive system is working as optimally as possible. After all, how can the body make the right hormones if the building blocks for those hormones are not available due to the inability to assimilate nutrients properly? Furthermore, some education may be suggested to the patient on what to eat and, often more importantly, when to eat it and to eat in a calm environment. Of course, if one’s body is under the siege of stress, eating calmly may seem impossible. That is where learning relaxation techniques such as meditation and biofeedback may come in handy.

Truly integrated health care combines Western allopathic medicine and modalities such as acupuncture, massage, nutrition, behavioral health, life coaching and chiropractic as necessary to help each patient achieve his or her (not the health care practitioner’s) health goals. For example, diagnostic testing such as blood work and imaging studies may find clues as to what is going on to cause a set of symptoms. Pharmaceutical drugs and surgery may be completely necessary for the patient to return to a desired lifestyle. If it is, complementary modalities can help restore health faster. If that approach is not necessary, practitioners from complementary modalities can communicate with allopathic doctors and the patient to construct a health plan appropriate for the patient.

In talking with a patient of ours who took advantage of our Wellness Accumulation Plan, she likened the cost of the three-month wellness plan to the cost of an MRI. During her program, this patient corrected her high blood sugar, lost weight, greatly reduced chronic back and knee pain, began addressing her anxiety, and regulated her menstrual cycle. By being proactive and using collaborative and integrative care in a preventative way, this patient ultimately achieved her health goals for “the cost of an MRI.” She also saw so much value from her first Wellness Accumulation Program that she went on to a second three-month program to get to the root of her chronic anxiety. By doing so, she lowered her health care costs by reducing the number of medications she needed and quite possibly avoided costly allopathic testing and procedures.

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