Contributing to Health Policy Discussions: A Strategic Priority of Northwestern Health Sciences University

The Center for Health Innovation and Policy at Northwestern Health Sciences University has been influencing patient centered, evidenced informed complementary and integrative healthcare policy since 2010. The Center also coordinates the local and national advocacy activities of the institution, and works with university faculty and administrators to prepare graduates for new opportunities and responsibilities that are emerging as a result of healthcare reform.

As an academic institution that supports research and provides clinical services in the community, the university is committed to serving the community while also advancing the future of the healthcare professionals it trains. In addition, the institution also embraces an obligation and opportunity to provide thought leadership in the area of conservative and integrative healthcare.

In 2018, President Deb Bushway charged Drs. Michele Maiers and Charles Sawyer from the Center for Healthcare Innovation and Policy with responsibility for developing and disseminating health policy statements representing the official views of the university.

The cost of care, access and affordability, health disparities and other complex issues continue to confront employers, payers, consumers and policy makers. At the same time, the recognition and utilization of conservative therapies such as chiropractic, acupuncture and therapeutic massage is expanding. And, the need and value of those services is now becoming more apparent in light of the opioid abuse epidemic – coupled with the challenge of treating musculoskeletal pain without the use of narcotic medication.

“This institution is all about finding innovative solutions to hard healthcare problems, and integrating them,” said Dr. Bushway. “And we have members of our community with the expertise and desire to contribute to policy conversations involving the safe and effective management of pain.”

In a recently released policy statement titled, Looking Beyond the Opioid Abuse Epidemic: The Role for Non-Pharmacologic Treatment of Musculoskeletal Pain, lead author Dr. Michele Maiers calls attention to research that supports, and best practice guidelines that recommend, the use of treatment approaches that complementary and integrative health professionals provide to patients.

The university statement also cites examples of health systems and other clinical settings in which chiropractic doctors, acupuncturists and massage therapists are providing integrative care while working with medical physicians and other health professionals. But the policy statement also highlights some of the barriers that hinder greater adoption of conservative therapies such as limited and depressed insurance reimbursement, and the lack of care coordination among providers.

Dr. Bushway remarked, “The statement from our Center for Healthcare Innovation and Policy details some important steps that can be taken to address the lack of adequate pain management, and we hope they are considered by the broader healthcare community.”

The policy statement can be viewed and downloaded here (PDF).