Dr. Andrew Simon, ND, CKTP
Mind-body medicine, a powerful tool utilized by naturopathic doctors, continues to gain traction by removing financial obstacles to health. By reducing demand on health care services through simple mind-body medicine techniques, there is a potential to save patients from expensive health care visits.
Recently a study in PLOS | ONE demonstrated significant reductions in interventions and billable encounters from a spectrum of specialty, primary care, and emergency encounters in the health care system. Specifically, the utilization of an eight-week Relaxation Response Resiliency Program (3RP) developed by the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital was studied, and observation of statistical links were found that could account for the shift in health care demand.
This study comes as even health care insurers report the benefit to their employees. After encouraging Aetna employees to volunteer for a study utilizing meditation and yoga, Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini reported a 50 percent drop in cortisol, and changes in Heart Rate Variability that led to a $3,000 reduction in health care costs through the next year. In an interview with PBS News Hour, he also said employees saw an uptick in productivity that alludes to the benefits of focus when fostering a more mindfulness-based approach.
While the 3RP study can’t expand and state broadly that this resiliency training saves health care costs directly, it does speak to the beginning steps of measuring costs, by understanding utilization from a population base. As the nervous system regulates through the relaxation response, face-to-face interaction with peers and family, many people identify a calmer, more alert and mindful awareness about their body. The more a patient is aware of their body, finding meaning in their work or life, fostering mindful non-judgmental practices, and has positive regard to their health, they develop improved resiliency and likely less symptoms to bring them to the ER.
Are we prescribing relaxation, rest, and resiliency to our patients? What would happen if we take the time in our office visit to promote yoga, tai chi, paced breathing, or even lead our patients in a mindfulness exercise to demonstrate the power of mind-body medicine? Notice where on the therapeutic order you as a naturopathic physician or health care practitioner are supporting your patient.
The ability to teach patients about a mindful approach starts with how the practitioner is in the room, how charting takes places, the pace, flow, and environment that you create in the patient exam room. What distractions, noises, or systems are present in your clinic space that foster the physician and patient’s ability to maintain a focus and a mindful office visit? Notice what happens when you stay focused on the object of your inquiry, the patient, for 30-60 minutes, providing your undivided attention on their mind, their body, and their spirit.
Dr. Andrew Simon is a naturopathic physician licensed in Washington State. He completed a CMNE-accredited residency at Bastyr Center for Natural Health in 2014, and he continues to supervise student clinicians in Bastyr Center’s mind-body medicine appointments utilizing mindfulness, biofeedback, and a behavioral medicine approach to health. Dr. Simon currently has a private practice at Fit Wellness Centers in Seattle Washington utilizing mind-body medicine techniques including biofeedback, Kinesio Taping, and physical medicine modalities.