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As the public becomes more aware of the new approaches to medicine, there is some confusion about the different labels it is known by.

In this article I’d like to breakdown the four approaches that lead to the approach known as Integrative Medicine.

1) Conventional Medicine

Conventional or mainstream medicine is what comes to mind when you think of standard health care.

The primary goal of conventional care is to cure patients by eliminating physical symptoms of illness and injuries. This is usually done through the use of pharmaceutical drugs.

For example, if you have an infection you get an antibiotic; if you have high blood pressure you get an antihypertensive.

Conventional medicine tends to be a much more reactive which can be very costly in the long run. In this model, there is high pressure on doctors to see as many patients in as little time as possible, making it difficult to create a good doctor-patient relationship.

2) Alternative Medicine

The alternative approach includes nontraditional treatments such as Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, homeopathy, acupuncture, yoga, herbal remedies, hypnotherapy, massage, or chiropractic therapy.

Although not generally recognized as effective by conventional physicians, the appeal with the general public is growing.

3) Complementary Medicine

The terms ‘alternative’ and ‘complementary’ are sometimes used interchangeably, but they’re actually different concepts. When patients use non-mainstream (i.e. alternative) treatments in conjunction with conventional medicine, it’s sometimes referred to as complementary medicine.

The challenge with this approach is that some complementary practices have been studied and tested. However, most haven’t undergone well-designed trials. For this reason, there are still many questions about these practices.

4) Integrative Medicine

Integrative medicine is a unique approach to care. Rather than treating only the illness or disease symptoms, the focus is on the patient and addresses the full range of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental influences that affect a person’s health.

It employs a personalized strategy that considers the patient’s unique conditions, needs and circumstances.

The defining principles of integrative medicine are:

  • The patient and practitioner are partners in the healing process.
  • All factors that influence health, wellness and disease are taken into consideration
  • Providers use all healing sciences to facilitate the body’s innate healing response.
  • Effective interventions that are natural and less invasive are used whenever possible.
  • The care is personalized to best address the individual’s unique conditions, needs and circumstances.


5) Functional Medicine

Functional medicine addresses the underlying causes of disease, using a systems-oriented approach and engaging both patient and practitioner in a therapeutic partnership.

It is an evolution in the practice of medicine that better addresses the healthcare needs of chronic disease management.

On key element of Functional Medicine is that it uses sophisticated testing and health history taking to get at the root cause of disease and dysfunction.

The What Versus The Why

You might think of Conventional medicine as the medicine of ‘WHAT’: what disease, what pill is needed.

Whereas Integrative and Functional medicine is the medicine of ‘WHY’: why is this symptom occurring now in this patient, in this way and what are its origins?

Functional medicine and integrative medicine are on the same page when it comes to breaking down the many segments of conventional, specialized medicine. The view is that the whole body matters, the patient experience matters, and the doctor-patient connection matters.

Looking to grow your Integrative or Functional Medicine Practice? Nexsys is a specialist consulting service with over 25 years experience in business and technical support for the Healthcare industry and focus entirely on the Integrative Model for Medical Practitioners. Schedule a complimentary consultation with our team to see how we can help you.

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