Integrative, Multidisciplinary Care On The Rise Locally

Affordable Care Act’s Focus On Prevention Is Key To Growth

Given the push for accountable care under the Affordable Care Act, complementary and integrative medicine – a model of care established in the late 1990s that focuses health and wellness rather than disease – is experiencing unprecedented popularity. Whole Health is the latest practice of this sort to open in Traverse City, offering multidisciplinary integrative care to clients.

Dr. Chris Moran, a chiropractic physician at Whole Health, noted the multidisciplinary component has played a pivotal role in the growing popularity of this care model.

WholeHealth“Things work better when everyone’s working together, bringing together different disciplines for the patient’s good,” Moran said. “It is difficult to have five different providers implementing five different modes of care. There is no benefit to the patient if there is miscommunication. Care is better when coordinated.”

Integrative medicine embraces the idea that health is not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. The providers’ goal is to facilitate the natural healing response of the body, avoiding medication and invasive procedures wherever possible.

Elon Cameron believes this shift in health care has been a long time coming. Cameron is a board-certified acupuncturist and specialist in Chinese herbal medicine at Imagine Health in Traverse City.

“It’s a logical progression – there are so many diseases and disorders that aren’t solved by traditional therapies like surgery and pharmaceuticals, and there is a certain frustration not just in the patient community but in the medical community as well,” she said. “People are reaching outside of the traditional realm for more solutions when it comes to long-term health goals and health problems.”

It is difficult, however, to attract practitioners in integrative care to northern Michigan – or anywhere in the state, for that matter – due to state law, noted Jill Donberg, an acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine practitioner at Grand Traverse Natural Health Care.

“Integrative medicine is in high demand locally, but it’s not covered by insurance in the state of Michigan,” Donberg said.

Still, her practice – which also includes an integrative massage therapist – has grown regardless. “Our practice grows 20 percent annually. There are lots of talented practitioners here, but there may not be enough to keep up with the demand.”

In addition to chiropractic care, the various disciplines represented at Whole Health, which opened its doors in April 2015, are board-certified acupuncturist, registered dietitian, licensed professional therapist, mind-body healing specialist, and a chi nei tsang and qigong (Chinese energy healing) practitioner.

Why these particular disciplines? “The typical Western medical route is to have one choice for patients,” explained Moran. “We selected skill sets for Whole Health that deal with people as a whole. If we can treat the patient holistically, rather than looking at and trying to combat specific symptoms alone, we get a better outcome than other choices, such as surgery and prescription medications.”

Imagine Health’s practitioners, which in addition to Cameron also include an osteopathic physician, a master bodywork therapist, a clinical therapist, and an acupuncturist/doula – came together to open this facility in December 2013. The practitioners study each other’s disciplines and learn from one another’s continuing education.

“We had a bigger vision for how we wanted patients to be treated and how we wanted them to feel while being treated,” Cameron said. “We wanted people to feel cared for, to feel like they were coming to a calming environment that didn’t feel clinical.”

She continued, “A lot of the humanism has been bred out of the medical establishment. Physicians used to visit patients in their homes, but now we’ve gone so far to the other extreme that medical care is often all about procedures and medical codes. It focuses on ‘disease’ and there’s no longer room for the humanity aspect. Our patients have complex issues that bring them to our practice, and we want to honor that complexity.”

This concept is resonant at Whole Health as well. Acupuncturist Jeff Campbell noted, “We don’t treat disease, per se. We try to look at the individual. We don’t want to put a label on any patient.”

Added Moran, “We tend to take the body for granted in this society. We don’t give it enough credit that it can heal itself if you give it the right healing signal and energy work. We want to empower the patient.”

Imagine Health: 121 S. Garfield Ave., Suite A, Traverse City; 231-943-2328;

Whole Health: 1203 E. 8th St., Traverse City; 231-946-4325;

Grand Traverse Natural Health Care: 626 E. Eight St., Suite 17, Traverse City; 231-929-8183;

Center for Integrative Care: 697 Hannah Ave., Suite A, Traverse City; 947-0900;

Olsen Naturopathic Clinic: 315 Division St., Suite 200, Traverse City; 946-8600;