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7 Ways to Get Started in Integrative Primary Care

Integrative primary care is the coordinated delivery of evidence-based conventional medical care, complementary medicine and lifestyle medicine within a primary care practice. Incorporating integrative medicine into mainstream primary care practices enables providers to:

  • Deliver higher quality care
  • Improve patient outcomes and satisfaction
  • Lower costs
  • Reduce burnout.

Here are 7 ways to add integrative primary care to your practice, based on our series of Integrative Primary Care Case Studies. Most of these can be added quickly and easily.

#1. Support Behavior Change

Give patients handouts with simple changes they can make in everyday life to feel and function better, such as:

Healthy Food, Healthy Mind, Healthy Lifestyle, Healthy You

Encourage patients to use apps and tracking devices to monitor their behavior change progress.

Case study: HOPE note

#2. Sit and See the Patient

Provide patient-centered care by:

  1. Sitting down when seeing a patient. The patient will feel like you are more present, and you will feel more present. Sitting makes both of you feel like you have more time.
  2. Spending the first few minutes of a visit facing the patient. Talking to the patient face-to-face instead of looking at the computer screen enables the physician to process complex information more quickly and completely.

Case study: Patient-centered and team-based care

#3. Use Teach-Back to Improve Understanding and Compliance

Half of all patients leave a medical visit without understanding what their physician told them.

Teach-back is a simple solution to this problem, and you can do it in as little as 30 seconds. Ask the patient to repeat your instructions and key information in his/her own words. Teach-back is particularly effective in improving medication adherence.

Case study: Health coaching

#4. Ask Patients to Complete a Personal Health Inventory

Ask patients to complete a Personal Health Inventory before a visit. Use this and the HOPE note questions to guide the discussion during the visit. Develop an action plan with the top three items to work on that are meaningful to the patient and supported by evidence. The HOPE note is a simple tool for adding integrative health care to a routine office visit.

Case study: HOPE Note

#5. Ease Physician Burden with Scribes or Social Workers

Scribes can handle documentation during an office visit, freeing the physician to focus on the patient. Scribes allow physicians to see more patients, pay for themselves, and improve access to care. Medical assistants, aspiring medical students, and health coaches can serve as scribes.

Social workers can help patients find and access the community resources and social support they need. This can help patients with non-medical needs that impact health, such as health insurance, heat, food, transportation, and housing. The social worker sees the patient after the physician.

Case study: Patient-centered and team-based care

#6. Try a Group Visit, Using Available Resources

Group visits enable physicians to work with patients in a supportive group environment to manage chronic diseases. Patients help others address challenges to behavior change and loneliness. Use available resources, such as a group visit toolkit, to try a group visit in your practice.

Group visit toolkits from the Lifestyle Matrix Resource Center at include:

  • Visit forms
  • Patient handouts
  • Multimedia education or presentation slides for customizable education
  • A 45-minute call with a specialist to walk though implementing a group visit in your practice

Case study:  Group visits

#7. Start with a Pilot Health Coaching Program

Health coaching helps patients understand their chronic disease(s) and actively participate

in their care. Start your health coaching program with one provider, one health coach and a small number of patients.  A pilot will help you identify problems in the process, and get feedback from patients, the provider and the coach. After the pilot, refine the program and expand it.

Use the AMA’s Steps Forward four-step Implementing Health Coaching process as a guide.

Case study: Health coaching

 Learn More About Integrative Primary Care

Read our series of Integrative Primary Care Case Studies for more information and tips about how to add integrative primary care to your practice. The case studies are:

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