After a lengthy collaborative process that began in September 2009 and involved academic leaders from acupuncture, ayurveda, naturopathy, massage, midwifery, homeopathy, yoga therapy, and chiropractic, the Academic Consortium for Complementary and Alternative Health Care (ACCAHC) has endorsed what it calls the Competencies for Optimal Practice in Integrated Environments. ACCAHC is presently focused on aggregating and creating content to develop a rich web-portal, the Center for Optimal Integration, to assist educators, practitioners and organizations of all types to move toward such competencies.
“We want to train people while they are still students, so that this can become an established approach,” says Marcia Prenguber, ND, cochair of the ACCAHC Clinical Working Group and director of integrative care for Indiana University Health Goshen, in Goshen, Ind., where she also heads a residency program for naturopathic doctors. “The idea is to optimize connections across complementary therapies as well as in conjunction with more conventional care.”
The era of integration is here.
Mike Wiles, DC, MEd, vice president and provost at Minnesota-based Northwestern Health Sciences University, is among those leading the ACCAHC process. Wiles, cochair of ACCAHC’s Education Working Group, explains the importance of the initiative: “The era of integration is here. Yet the educational standards and clinical models of the licensed integrative healthcare disciplines are generally not emphasizing integrative models of care. These competencies focus us all on the current and future needs of providers.”
A multidisciplinary group of more than 50 professionals from ACCAHC’s Education Working Group, Clinical Care Working Group, Research Working Group, Council of Advisers, Board of Directors, and member organizations participated in the multiple stages of the process that began in September 2009. With an eye to a growing audience that will include both complementary and conventional practices, the ACCAHC Competencies consist of 5 distinct fields:
- Healthcare policy
- Institutional healthcare culture and practice
- Interprofessional education
- Communication and interprofessional relationships
- Evidence-based health care and evidence-informed practice
Prenguber points out how policy issues, for example, impact everything that those involved in the ACCAHC do. “Understanding policies goes a long way to making positive inroads to increasing access,” she says.
While Prenguber says Competencies is still in the early developmental phase, the goal is to create an individualized educational process to learn about disciplines and how they might interact with and complement one another. Prenguber’s cochair of the clinical group, Jason Wright, MS, LAc, dean of the Finger Lakes School of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine of the New York Chiropractic College, underscores the importance of utilizing the web to make information more readily available. “Our work with the competencies and providing web-based resources is at the heart of ACCAHC’s mission. This work supports our ongoing commitment to promote mutual understanding, collaborative activities, interdisciplinary healthcare education, and the delivery of optimal patient care.”
As more interest in integrative care develops, Prenguber hopes both the web portal and the Competencies will be used in a variety of settings. “They have a huge role in providing a blueprint for the way integrated environments can be most successful,” she says.