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To provide the best of Eastern and Western Medicine to promote quality holistic health care customized to the individual patient, conduct research on the efficacy and design for integrative medicine, & educate practitioners with an integrative medicine paradigm.

Integrative Medicine Program Breaks New Ground in Ancient Field

Pictured are members of the integrative medicine team (left to right): Charlene Ossler, RN; Alex Feng , LAc; Chris Randle, LAc; Lyn Berry, MD; Gabrielle LeCompte , LAc; Colin Feeney, MD; Craig Brandt; Amy Matecki, MD; Bina Jangda, LAc; Anahita Forati, LAc; Jamie Hampton, LAc; and Tina Chin-Kaplan, LAc.

Acupuncture Offered to Highland Inpatients, Outpatients  (Download the pdf)

It may seem a little strange to celebrate milestones measured in months when referring to the age-old practice of Chinese traditional medicine, but the International Center for Integrative Medicine (ICIM) at Highland is in fact marking six months of providing integrative medical care to outpatients and a year and a half of providing it to inpatients.

ACMC is believed to be the first public medical center in the US to offer acupuncture by traditional (non-physician) Chinese medicine practitioners as well as by physicians. Highland began offering acupuncture treatment to inpatients in mid-2011 and expanded the service to outpatients in July, 2012.

The integrative medicine discipline includes a host of traditional medicine practices - acupuncture, massage, acupressure, herbal medicine, nutrition, meditation, qi gong, tai chi and more - that weren’t even legal in the U.S. until the 1970s. Today, integrative medicine treatments like acupuncture have proved effective in areas such as pain management where, for example, they has been shown to reduce post-surgical pain and reduce the risk of pain medication-related addiction. They have also been proved to minimize the side effects of chemotherapy.

“Integrative medicine may enhance patient care quality and lower health care costs because it is less invasive, and it can be more efficient and more effective than Western-style medicine in some applications,” said Chief of Integrative Medicine, Alex Feng, LAc, OMD, PhD. One of the challenges of bringing integrative medicine into the public hospital environment is that most insurers – including Medicare and Medicaid – don’t cover these services. Without insurer reimbursement, funding is a challenge. ACMC is able to offer integrative medicine treatments by relying on 18 volunteer practitioners, who work through a nonprofit foundation.

One Highland inpatient who was referred for acupuncture said, “It was like a miracle! I think it was a key element in preparing me for the difficult treatments I received in the following days. I didn’t expect to be able to receive acupuncture at Highland!”

The Integrative Medicine outpatient clinic at Highland is run by Dr. Feng, Dr. Amy Matecki, Director of the International Center for Integrative Medicine (ICIM), and Charlene Ossler, RN, PhD, Executive Administrator of the ICIM. The program is supported by ACMC leaders Dr. Judith Wofsy, Dr. Colin Feeney, Dr. David Irwin, and Dr. Lyn Berry. At present, the Thursday morning clinic serves about a dozen patients at the K-6 Adult Services clinic.

The inpatient program has provided care to over 200 patients since 2011. Plans are for the clinic to expand as resources permit. The outpatient program is booked for up to 1-2 months in advance. Both services are accessed through referrals from ACMC professional staff.

Drs. Feng and Matecki are widely known integrative medicine specialists who established the first integrative medicine outpatient clinic and inpatient care at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center Comprehensive Cancer Center in 2004. They have run it there successfully since, building the program up to 3,000 patient visits per year.

The five-year plan for the ICIM at ACMC calls for establishing the clinical value of integrative medicine by decreasing the length of hospital stays and reducing the cost of care while improving the quality of life for patients. The team envisions making the Highland program an international model that involves research and physician training components.

Highland’s internal medicine, pharmacy, surgery and nursing residents are already being trained on traditional Chinese medicine techniques. The residents have reacted positively to learning these complementary modalities. As one resident said, “We really want to learn quality of life measures and techniques from Traditional Chinese Medicine, which will help us to find the best way to minimize our patients’ suffering.”

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