Complementary and Integrative Health Approaches Offered in the Veterans Health Administration: Results of a National Organizational Survey

Author: Melissa M Farmer1,2, Michael McGowan1,2, Anita H Yuan1,2, Alison M Whitehead3, Uyi Osawe4, Stephanie L Taylor1,2,5
1 VA Health Services Research & Development (HSR&D), Center for the Study of Healthcare Innovation, Implementation and Policy, VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, Los Angeles, CA, USA.
2 VA QUERI Complementary and Integrative Health Evaluation Center, Los Angeles, CA, USA.
3 VA National Office of Patient Centered Care and Cultural Transformation, Washington, DC, USA.
4 Kaiser Permanente Southern California, Woodland Hills, CA, USA.
5 Department of Medicine, Department of Health Policy and Management, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA, USA.
Conference/Journal: J Altern Complement Med
Date published: 2021 Mar 1
Other: Volume ID: 27 , Issue ID: S1 , Pages: S124-S130 , Special Notes: doi: 10.1089/acm.2020.0395. , Word Count: 327

Introduction: Certain complementary and integrative health (CIH) approaches have increasingly gained attention as evidence-based nonpharmacological options for pain, mental health, and well-being. The Veterans Health Administration (VA) has been at the forefront of providing CIH approaches for years, and the 2016 Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act mandated the VA expand its provision of CIH approaches. Objective/Design: To conduct a national organizational survey to document aspects of CIH approach implementation from August 2017 to July 2018 at the VA. Participants: CIH program leads at VA medical centers and community-based outpatient clinics (n = 196) representing 289 sites participated. Measures: Delivery of 27 CIH and other nonpharmacologic approaches was measured, including types of departments and providers, visit format, geographic variations, and implementation challenges. Results: Respondents reported offering a total of 1,568 CIH programs nationally. Sites offered an average of five approaches (range 1-23), and 63 sites offered 10 or more approaches. Relaxation techniques, mindfulness, guided imagery, yoga, and meditation were the top five most frequently offered. The most approaches were offered in physical medicine and rehabilitation, primary care, and within integrative/whole health programs, and VA non-Doctor of Medicine clinical staff were the most common type of CIH provider. Only 13% of sites reported offering CIH approaches through telehealth at the time. Geographically, southwestern sites offered the smallest number of approaches. Implementation challenges included insufficient staffing, funding, and space, hiring/credentialing, positioning CIH as a priority, and high patient demand. Conclusions: The provision of CIH approaches was widespread at the VA in 2017-2018, with over half of responding sites offering five or more approaches. As patients seek nonpharmacologic options to address their pain, anxiety, depression, and well-being, the nation's largest integrated health care system is well-positioned to meet that demand. Providing these therapies might not only increase patient satisfaction but also their health and well-being with limited to no adverse events.

Tai Chi and Qigong are included in many CIH programs

Keywords: Veterans; complementary and integrative health; organizational survey.

PMID: 33788607 DOI: 10.1089/acm.2020.0395