The Future of Medicine Part 2: Ripples in the Water

In Part 1 of the Evolution of Medicine Series, I explained how the medical system operates under a standard of care model. Although this model has led to many success stories, we are realizing the limits to its success.  This has led forward thinking doctors to develop novel ways to improve those aspects not addressed in the current system.

The Movement Begins

It is hard to tell exactly when the progressive medicine movement began. Many doctors have been quietly practicing non-conventional styles of medicine for decades.

Given the strict guidelines that govern doctors, the initial days of the movement were marked by battles between doctors and regulating authorities. As has been the case with other fields, change has been historically met with resistance.

Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future
– John F. Kennedy

Pushing the Needle for Change

Despite reluctance to change, doctors followed their passions, and decided to practice the medicine that felt right. This included novel styles of practice that challenged the old school pharmaceutical approach.

As a general rule, doctors are a conservative group. We prefer to wait until others are doing something before doing it ourselves. This makes the practice feel more accepted.

As we looked around and noticed that more and more doctors were practicing integrative medicine, the field grew in numbers. Over time, the combination of numbers of medical doctors and the credibility of the medical field led to a wide spread acceptance of a new wave of medicine.

We now have a plethora of large-scale organizations such as the American College for the Advancement of Medicine (ACAM), and the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM). We have even seen the growth of integrative medicine into institutions of modern medicine such as The Cleveland Clinic, Harvard, and the University of Toronto.

These organizations have seen massive growth over the past decade, and are considered to be the fastest growing medical organizations in the world. Their goal is to teach doctors how to introduce integrative medicine into their practices. On a larger scale, they are conducting research to show that an integrative health approach will lead to better health outcomes while decreasing health care costs.

What is integrative medicine?

The general public has different thoughts on what integrative medicine means to them.

To some people, integrative medicine is a mixed bag of alternative medicine such as acupuncture and homeopathy, rather than using mainstream therapies.

I see it as much more than that.

Integrative medicine is a new paradigm that uses the best aspects of the conventional system, and fills in the gaping holes that it does not address.

The fundamental underlying cause for the creation of integrative medicine is the following clear concept.

The conventional system has done a remarkable job in the field of acute care medicine. However, the system is very poorly designed for the treatment of chronic disease and health promotion.

What are the biggest flaws with the current system?

I’m not meaning to sound critical, but for those who want to see better patient care, we need to look at our reality.

  • Doctors are not given enough time with patients.
  • Doctors are overly pharmaceutically biased.
  • Doctors are not adequately educated on lifestyle interventions, nor do they have the time to institute them.
  • The current system does not pay for allied health teams, which can offset many costs and increase time delivered to patients
  • Doctors and patients remain in the mindset that medicine equals prescriptions.

Best Definition of Integrative Medicine

Now that we understand the flaws, we can better define integrative medicine.

Integrative medicine is an approach to care that seeks to integrate the best of scientific medicine with a broader understanding of illness, healing and wellness. Integrative medicine puts the patient at the center of care. It addresses the full range of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental influences that affect a person’s health. 1

It is a system that cares for individuals. It is focused on a personalized, self optimization plan, which has a side effect of clearing out unwanted symptoms.

Although this may sound like an obvious concept, it is not. Shifting a multi-trillion dollar health care industry that is heavily focused on pharmaceutical treatment of disease is a challenging process.

I believe this change will start from the ground up as a grass roots movement. I am not prepared to wait for the corporations to focus on my health. It is our job to take health into our own hands and create the life we desire.

In the next and final part of this series, I will explore models that have already been created in the USA, and outline where integrative medicine is in Canada.


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Dr. Rishi Verma

Dr. Rishi Verma, MD is a Vancouver-based medical doctor and a leader in the field of integrative medicine. He is the owner and medical director of Balance Medical Center and Westcoast Women’s Clinic.

Dr. Verma travels and trains extensively to learn new and innovative approaches to improve healthcare delivery in Canada. His focus is on personalized medicine and the application of genomic and proteomic testing in the clinical setting. He believes these areas will have a great impact on the evolution of medicine.

Dr. Verma is Vice-President of the Canadian Integrative Medicine Association and is a fellowship candidate with the Institute for Functional Medicine.