CLEVELAND, Ohio – University Hospitals plans to expand the reach of its Connor Integrative Health Network by increasing hiring, training and research efforts.
The expansion is being funded by a $6.5 million donation from Sara and Chris Connor, who provided the initial funding for the six-year-old program. Chris Connor is the former chairman and CEO of The Sherwin-Williams Co. and serves on UH’s board of directors, and Sara Connor was trained as an occupational therapist.
The Connor Integrative Health Network combines traditional medicine with integrative treatments (things like acupuncture, meditation and yoga therapy) and is part of a national move by large hospital systems into integrative healthcare.
“We’re weaving those modalities within everything we do at UH,” said Dr. Francoise Adan, medical director of the program and the newly named Connor Endowed Chair of Integrative Medicine. “It’s not only receiving and taking medication; it’s what else are they going to do?”
Patient demand for non-pharmacological treatments seems to have increased, she said, as the opioid epidemic has grown worse. More often, patients are interested in finding other ways to combat pain than prescriptions.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, said about 38 percent of adults in the U.S. use complementary and alternative medicine, a number that has remained relatively stable over the past decade.
The difference, however, is that more hospitals are offering these treatments, bringing more patients into health systems. Locally, the Cleveland Clinic has a Center for Integrative & Lifestyle Medicine, under the umbrella of its Wellness Institute, and the MetroHealth System offers integrative therapies like reiki.
Integrative medicine is criticized for replacing evidence-based medicine with alternative treatments. Dr. Daniel Neides, medical director and COO of the Clinic’s Wellness Institute, earlier this year came under fire for a column he published on Cleveland.com linking autism to vaccines and warning against the use of vaccines.
But Adan stressed that the services at UH are considered complementary. Treatments like acupuncture and mindfulness are administered in coordination with traditional medicine.
“At no time do we want to have patients who need to choose,” said Adan, who previously worked as a psychiatrist.
Since the center launched at the end of 2011, more than 500 clinicians have started referring their patients for treatments, Adan said.
“Recognizing its positive impact on patient experiences and outcomes, physicians at UH Seidman Cancer Center, UH Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute and our other institutes and centers are increasingly using integrative therapies with their patients to enhance the effectiveness of traditional medicine,” Dr. Daniel Simon, president of UH Cleveland Medical Center, said in a release.
Sara and Chris Connor decided to help bring integrative medicine to UH because they saw it as a way to create healthier lifestyles.
“I think the combination of these treatments along with traditional medicine, in many cases, has proven to enhance the recovery process,” said Chris Connor, who has used services like massage therapy and music therapy.
Connor said programs like this one are ways for UH become more competitive in the healthcare world.
“I think this is really right in wheelhouse of what leading medical institutions like UH are trying to provide today,” Connor said.
“We are at a moment of transformation in healthcar,e and this program is in perfect sync with UH’s overall wellness strategy,” Tom Zenty, UH CEO, said in the release.