Communication Studies, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Patient Education and Counseling 89:3 (December 2012), pp. 434–438; doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2012.03.006


Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. Used by permission.


Objectives — This study examines three integrative health centers to understand their (1) historical development, organizational goals, and modalities, (2) the processes and challenges of integrating complementary and allopathic medicine, while encouraging staff collaboration, and (3) how each center becomes institutionalized within their community.

Methods — We focus on three organizational case studies that reflect varying forms of integrative health care practices in three U.S. cities. Participant-observation and in-depth interviews with center directors were analyzed qualitatively.

Results — Important patterns found within the three cases are (1) the critical role of visionary biomedical practitioners who bridge complementary and allopathic practices, (2) communicating integration internally through team interaction, and (3) communicating integration externally through spatial location, naming, and community outreach.

Conclusion — IM centers continue to blaze new trails toward mainstream access and acceptance by gathering evidence for IM, encouraging team collaboration within organizational contexts, constructing organizational identity, and negotiating insurance reimbursements.

Practice implications — IM is not the enactment of specific modalities, but rather a philosophy of healing. Though scheduling conflicts, skepticism, and insurance coverage may be obstacles toward IM, collaboration among specialists and with patients should be the ultimate goal.