While serving as first and continuing point of contact for day-to-day healthcare, primary care practices often refer patients to outside providers for specialized services, but this is not the case at Whole Life Health Care (WLHC) in Newington.
Referring to their healthcare service delivery model as an "integrative medical concept," founder Amy Coombs, MS, APRN said WLHC goes beyond the paradigm of traditional primary care in merging eastern and western medicine from the moment of intake.
"We have more than 20 credentialed practitioners all under one roof, each of whom operate individual businesses, but share in the belief that a balance of mind and body is the key to wellness," she said.
Coombs describes her position and that of WLHC's five other primary care providers as the center of "a medical wheel" out of which other therapies - both traditional and alternative - serve as individual spokes. "You can't have one without the other and expect everything to run smoothly," she said.
In referencing alternative therapies, however, she said she does not mean to imply they are not supported by science.
"Regardless of the specific therapy offered here, everything is evidence-based, which means there is legitimate science and research to support what all our practitioners are doing," she said.
According to Integrative Program Coordinator Jennifer Carlson, WLHC applies the term "integrative" not just as a concept, but also as a way of doing business.
"We divide the year up into quarters and meet once a month as a group," said Carlson, who cited craniosacral therapy, ayurvedic medicine and bowenwork as just a few examples of alternative therapies available at WLHC.
In the quarter's first two monthly meetings, Carlson said providers discuss their respective approaches to a pre-selected topic. At the third and final quarterly meeting, providers review actual case studies, successes and failures.
"After this last meeting, each provider submits in a couple sentences how their modality would treat whatever topic had been discussed and studied," she said. "They also need to list at least two evidence-based articles that support what they have said. All the information is then captured and put into an informational brochure on the subject."
According to Practice Manager Bob Girard, another "big piece" to their integrative medical concept is their role as educators in the community. With that in mind, he said WLHC has begun to branch out into other arenas, including the development of corporate wellness programs.
"Healthy employees equal happy employees, and so the thought behind this initiative is to take people through an entire year with monthly challenges and other motivators to help people make sustainable behavioral changes," he said. "Our philosophy of integration happens within our business structure and out in the community."
For Acupuncturist Catherine Markovsky, who has a master's degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and has been with WLHC since it was founded in 2000, the integrative medical concept has improved her own approach.
"Having different eyes on some of my cases has allowed me to shrink my own ego and appreciate the different perspectives that my peers may offer," she said. "I can strive to be an expert in Chinese Medicine. I cannot put the same effort into reading lab tests, or getting into the real meat of a borderline personality, or really being able to discern micro nutrients."
Citing "exponential growth" in recent years, Coombs said she believes practices like WLHC represent an emerging trend in medicine that will change how health care is delivered in the future.
"From the moment a person steps through our doors, we bring on several practitioners to concurrently assess and understand his or her needs," she noted. "We're not here to treat individual illnesses - we're here to treat whole people. Based on the response we have received, that seems to be what people want."
According to Coombs, though, integrated primary care does not mean it is more expensive.
"Our fees are regulated by insurance companies, so all our practitioners charge what's normal for their professions," she said. "We're efficient and take time on the front end to properly assess and understand an individual's health status and personal goals, so we can develop an individualized care plan. We listen really well, too."
To learn more about Whole Life Health Care and its integrative medical concept, visit www.mywholelifehealthcare.com.