“The Integrative Health COVID Experience”
On June 24, the Integrative Health Policy Consortium (IHPC), with support from the Congressional Integrative Health and Wellness Caucus, sponsored a virtual briefing, “The Integrative Health COVID Experience.” The briefing, which was moderated by Ms. Terri Roberts, Executive Director, American Holistic Nurses Association, featured the experience of three integrative health care providers during the pandemic. The briefing was also an excellent opportunity to highlight for congressional offices necessary policy changes that could benefit the integrative health care community and the patients that they serve.
The briefing began with welcoming remarks by the Caucus Co-Chairs, Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-CA) and Congresswoman Jackie Walorski (R-IN). Both members reflected on the essential role integrative health care providers play in delivering patient care for wide range of conditions, including pain management and addiction. The congresswomen also urged offices to join the Caucus and learn more about the field of integrative health care.
The briefing featured presentations by three practitioners: Marci Resnicoff, Clinical Nurse Coordinator for the Lerner Health Promotion-Integrative Health Department at NYU-Langone Hospital-Brooklyn; Dr. Jaquel Patterson, a naturopathic physician and the medical director of Fairfield Family Health in Fairfield, Connecticut; and, Jeannie Kang, a seasoned Asian Medical Doctor and acupuncturist based in the Los Angeles metropolitan area.
The speakers reflected on their experiences during the height of the COVID pandemic and how it affected their patients. Ms. Resnicoff described how she focused on addressing staff self-care, providing overworked and stressed medical staff with resources and tools to manage their own health and well-being. Her presentation illustrated how caring for frontline health care workers enhances patient recovery. Dr. Jaquel Patterson reflected on her expanded use of telehealth during the pandemic. Further, she reinforced the point that integrative health care practitioners provide coordinated care and are accustomed to treating patients afflicted with complex, long-term comorbidities—characteristics that make integrative health providers well positioned to treat patients suffering from long COVID. Ms. Kang shared her experience as a provider as well as a patient who is recovering currently from injuries sustained in pedestrian accident. She has seen firsthand how effective integrative health care practices are for treating pain, anxiety, and stress—all of which she saw increase dramatically among her patients during the pandemic.
In addition to sharing their experiences, the speakers suggested several policy recommendations. All three urged Congress to expand coverage of integrative health care practices and to ensure integrative practitioners achieve pay parity, especially for delivering telehealth services, and be reimbursed on par with their colleagues in the field of conventional medicine. Ms. Resnicoff asked that hospitals be given more resources to support staff and “help heal these heroes.” Ms. Kang asked that integrative care providers be given more opportunities to communicate with policymakers to share their experiences and affect policy change. The presenters also asked that policymakers support more research regarding the efficacy of integrative treatments and then use this evidence to adjust, for example, Medicare reimbursement practices.
Ms. Roberts concluded the briefing reflecting on the opportunities that the pandemic presents. The pandemic is not over, and much work remains to be done, especially with respect understanding and managing long COVID. The integrative health community is not only helping with this effort to recover from the pandemic, but also is looking ahead to how it can improve patient care for other conditions and encourage individuals to embrace wellness.
A recording of the full briefing is posted at: https://tinyurl.com/IHPCCaucusJune2021