In this series, we look at ways urgent care centers can promote wellness for patients—help them keep those resolutions— in the New Year.
In 2013, New England Urgent Care added an entire Complementary Medicine service line at one of its four clinics. At their Simsbury center, Yahel and Michael Gutman assess patients’ “life balance baseline” and develop a comprehensive, holistic plan for treatment.
“We think the core of most diseases is the lack of balance in a person’s life,” Yahel said. “My personal belief is: The more prevention you can do, the better.”
Yahel Gutman, a registered nurse for more than 28 years now, spent time teaching emergency care in the Israeli Army. It was in the Middle East that she was first exposed to alternative medicine, also called complementary medicine—which is a service line that enhances well-being and treats chronic maladies that have not been effectively addressed through more conventional approaches.
Over the past 10 years Yahel has studied crystal healing and guided imagery both in the U.S. and abroad. Crystal healing uses different crystals to promote healing through light and color frequency; guided imagery is a visualization technique designed to promote relaxation and achieve therapeutic goals. Both Yahel and husband Michael Gutman, MD, PhD, are certified in Reiki—a Japanese technique that reduces stress, increases relaxation and promotes healing. Benefits can include improved sleep, reduced blood pressure, and faster self-healing capabilities. Yahel saw the positive impact of these medical approaches when she worked as a nursing director of a bone marrow transplant unit.
A new study shows one out of every four dollars employers pay for health care is tied to unhealthy lifestyle choices or conditions like smoking, stress, and obesity, despite the fact that most large employers have workplace wellness programs. The U.S. has worse health outcomes than most other developed nations, despite spending almost twice as much on health care.
Stress reduction should be a goal at urgent care centers—for both patients and employees. In part, this can be accomplished by streamlining clinic workflow to create hassle-free processing, shorter wait times and greater customer satisfaction. Some clinics across the country are going further and offering massage therapy in addition to other walk-in services.
Amber Calderone has been doing massage therapy at Premier Urgent Care in Florida for the past four years. She said there are numerous medical benefits to the treatment. Because massage has been shown to increase blood flow and decrease both inflammation and pain, it’s effective for patients who’ve suffered a car accident or other injury. Massage also relieves stress, a chronic problem for many patients even when they’re healthy.
Calderone said she sees some clients monthly, others come in a couple times each week. “It just depends on the person and the condition,” she said.
The comprehensive complementary medicine line at New England Urgent Care isn’t quite taking off yet. Yahel said massage services have done pretty well, and she draws numerous clients in when she offers specials on healing sessions (which include a combination of crystal healing, guided imagery and stress reduction).
However, the biggest question patients ask is: Will insurance cover it?
In most cases, the answer is no. Yahel said the upfront expense for patients is a major obstacle. She hopes insurance policies will change to cover more of these complementary treatments. For now, she offers a coupon for a $50 healing session (which includes crystal healing, guided imagery and stress reduction), for what would normally be a $150 service. The coupon is available on the clinic’s website, and the Gutmans also distribute it at wellness events in the community. Yahel said it helps draw new patients in the door, but she wants to see more of them returning for services.
Yahel hopes to do more outreach and education so patients understand the value in this preventative treatment. She points out that some patients are shelling out a lot of money for prescriptions that they might not need if they took better care of themselves.
“Too many think the more tests you do, the more times you see the doctor and get checked, the healthier you are—which is not true. If you eat better, you reduce stress and you keep balance, then you get less sick. This has been proven for sure,” she said. “I’m not talking about magic, I’m talking about logic.”