What is the role of health service managers in providing effective integrative healthcare? Findings from a qualitative study


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Emerging health service research on integrative healthcare (IHC) has predominantly focused on the experiences and perceptions of patients and practitioners. To date no work has focused attention upon health service managers (HSMs) and their involvement in IHC service provision. In this presentation we report on an exploratory investigation of the perceptions of managers about their role in facilitating integration of CAM into clinical care, and their understandings about the role of CAM in their services. Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with eight HSMs. Six were responsible for community-based programs (including drug and alcohol rehabilitation, refugee mental health and women's health) and two were responsible for hospital-based specialist programs dealing with chronic conditions. Results: Findings reveal that HSMs perceive their role as important in the establishment and the continuity of strategies to enable effective IHC practice. Findings also indicate that the managers perceive CAM as providing greater healthcare choice; help deliver 'more holistic' services; filling a therapeutic gap; enhancing quality of life; and providing clients with a 'point of entry' which enables them to access biomedical and psychological treatments. Conclusions: Findings from this study illustrate the positive approach of these managers towards developing IHC. Our findings also provide exemplars of healthcare contexts in which CAM and psychological therapies collaborate to provide innovative approaches for the treatment of trauma. Through the perspectives of managers in a range of different IHC settings, this study provides valuable insights of benefit to those looking to establish and maintain successful IHC services.

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