HMO's and Alternative Practices

A Survey

Five percent of HMO marketing and medical directors who responded to a recent survey plan to add reflexology services to benefit packages.

Among survey findings:

• 39% of the respondents anticipate adding chiropractics and acupuncture to plans. 20% anticipate adding massage and acupressure. 15% anticipate adding hypnotherapy.

• 70% of the respondents reported an increase in requests for alternative care therapies from plan members.

• 71% reported that their members were "somewhat knowledgeable" about alternative therapies.

• 38% of believed that offering alternative therapies would increase their enrollment. 48% believed it would not.

• 58% plan to offer alternative care therapies to their participants in the next two years. 42% report that they currently offer alternative therapies.

The report concludes:

• HMO's are responding to increased demands for alternative therapies.

• "Integrating these (alternative) therapies into benefit plans may be essential that want to remain competitive, as indicated by the large number of respondents who said they plan to offer alternative therapies in the next few years."

• "…this study reveals that additional education about these therapies is warranted.…Educating health plan members will help them make informed decisions about their health care options."

• "As demand for these therapies continues to grow, additional research is warranted and essential if we (of the healthcare industry) wish to gain a greater understanding of the impact of these therapies on the health care industry as a whole."

Reflexology was selected as one of seven alternative therapies to be included in a survey by Landmark Healthcare, a chiropractic managed care network, because of heightened exposure in the media and resulting consumer interest. Personnel from 86 HMO's in 13 states with high HMO participation responded to the 10-question survey.

Additional Analysis

An October, 1996 Associated Press report notes that "Health maintenance organizations are listening to the demands of their patients for other treatments when regular methods fail."

" ' Quite often these things can be less expensive that traditional care, especially if you can avoid hospitalization," said Randall Huyser, an HMO industry analyst with securities firm Furman Selz in San Francisco. "Secondly there is a tendency for people that like holistic cures to generally be healthier people, so they are more attractive patients for HMO's.' More importantly, public health authorities are becoming convinced that at least some of these things may really work."

ŠKunz and Kunz 2004
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