Healthcare :: CAM-oriented primary care providers result in cost savings, high patient satisfaction

Patients visiting chiropractors and other holistically-oriented physicianswho serve as primary care physicians (PCPs) have lower utilization costs and higher patient satisfactionlevels than patients treated by conventional medical doctors, according to a study published in the Mayissue of the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics that tracked data from a uniqueIndependent Physicians Association (IPA) where chiropractors serve as first-contact, primary carephysicians.

?The escalation of medical expenditures remains an urgent problem in the United States and it?s becomingquite clear that cost containment strategies by conventional medical providers are failing to achieve evenmediocre results,? said study coauthor James Winterstein, DC. ?This study confirms that integration ofallopathic, chiropractic and other complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) providers can positivelyimpact patient quality of care while limiting overall costs. This approach to patient care has great potentialto improve the U.S. healthcare system.?

Led by Richard Sarnat, MD, researchers directly compared cost and clinical utilization data from anintegrative CAM Independent Physicians Association (IPA) with conventional medical IPA data frommembers enrolled in a traditional health maintenance organization (HMO). The recent report analyzes datafrom 2003 to 2005 and is a follow up to the original report published in 2004, which compared data from1999 to 2002.

?Our most recent analysis supports earlier findings that patients visiting CAM-orientated primary carephysicians (PCP) ? primarily chiropractors ? experienced fewer hospitalizations, underwent fewer surgeriesand used considerably fewer pharmaceuticals than HMO patients who received traditional medical care,?Dr. Winterstein said. ?Moreover, doctors of chiropractic succeeded in diagnosing and treating patients at alevel nearly equal to medical doctors.?

Researchers found that over the course of the seven-year study, patients visiting chiropractors and otherCAM-oriented PCPs had 60 percent fewer hospitalizations, 62 percent fewer outpatient surgical cases, and85 percent lower pharmaceutical costs when compared with total network HMO utilization rates and costs. The chiropractors and other CAM doctors treated and managed cases ranging from upper respiratory tractinfections and allergies to headaches, orthopedic and other medical conditions.

In 2005, the chiropractic PCPs managed 60 percent of their enrolled patients without requiring a referral to aconventional medical specialist. These data mirror the 2001 findings, which also demonstrated that 60percent of the patient population within the integrative IPA was solely managed by their chiropractic PCPs.

?The most current data from our ongoing study suggests that doctors of chiropractic are well-suited toprovide patients with valuable primary-care services,? Dr. Winterstein notes. ?We have demonstrated that itis possible to deliver CAM-oriented primary care in a highly regulated environment without compromisingeither quality or safety.?

Patients reported on the quality of care they received through the use of annual patient satisfaction surveys.On average, data from patients enrolled between 2003 and 2005 demonstrated a high degree of satisfaction(96 percent, 94 percent, and 91 percent, respectively). These findings were similar to data from 1999through 2002 (100 percent, 89 percent, 91 percent, and 90 percent, respectively). The integrative CAMpatients consistently rated their experiences more positively than did members enrolled within the HMO?sconventional medical IPAs.

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