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Cleveland Clinic

Alternative medicine thriving at Cleveland Clinic (because it works)

Monday, September 25, 2006 by: Ben Kage
Tags: Cleveland Clinic, alternative medicine, alternative therapies


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(NewsTarget) Cleveland Clinic's Center for Integrative Medicine in Broadview Heights, Ohio only attracted a few patients when it opened in 2004, but now the center -- which offers acupuncture, yoga therapy, and other alternatives to conventional medicine -- attracts dozens of patients every week.

Dr. Tanya Edwards was hired by the Cleveland Clinic to launch the center in 2004, initially with the plan to emphasize research and education. The former associate professor at Case Western Reserve University offered courses in alternative medicine when she taught at the school, and brought that knowledge to the center.

"Since the Cleveland Clinic is an academic institution, what we offer are evidence-based therapies," Edwards said. "I am not going to recommend therapies that don't have scientific merit."

Edwards usually begins treatments with a one-hour consultation about patients' physical illness, but she also discusses their spiritual and emotional health and well-being. Edwards says she particularly emphasizes the importance of nutrition, recommending an anti-inflammatory diet high in omega-3 oils, including salmon, nuts, seeds, vegetables, whole grains and fruit. Inflammatory foods such as animal fats, trans fats, sugars and refined carbohydrates are strongly discouraged.

The success of the center, according to both its patrons and employees, is due to word-of-mouth advertising, the clinic's success in treating pain and other chronic conditions, and the increasing number of insurance companies covering alternative therapies. Most patients, however, still pay for their treatments, including the $250 consultation fee to talk to Edwards.

Another Cleveland-area medical facility, the Southwest General Health Center in Middleburg Heights, opened an alternative care clinic in the late 1990s, but the general unwillingness (or inability) of insurance companies to pay for such treatments caused the program to go under before the turn of the century.

Fortunately for patients who find no relief in conventional medical treatments, more insurance companies are shelling out for treatments that just a few years ago were considered nonsense.

"I was someone who would be very skeptical of this kind of treatment, but the relief I got was incredible," said patient Lisa Shuck, who went to the Center for Integrative Medicine for help with her severely inflamed leg veins during pregnancy. Her pregnancy precluded her taking medication for pain, but she found acupuncture helped.

"I was in so much pain, I was crying. And right after my first session, you could actually see a difference already. The discoloration from the blood went way down," she said.

Edwards hopes the center's continued success spurs more insurance companies to cover alternative treatments.

According to Mohit Ghose, spokesperson for insurance company trade association America's Health Insurance Plans, coverage is dependent on two factors: "Underlying medical evidence is the core driver; the second is the average consumer or employer's ability to pay." The increased coverage of alternative therapies, Ghose said, was due to the increased willingness of employers to spring for programs that encourage healthier living.

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