Listening to Their Words: A Qualitative Analysis of Integrative Medicine Group Visits in an Urban Underserved Medical Setting

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Objective. Integrative Medicine Group Visits (IMGVs) are an 8-week outpatient medical group visit program for chronic pain patients combining mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), integrative medicine, and patient education. The authors conducted a qualitative study with IMGV participants to better understand the effects of IMGVs on patients’ health.

Design. This qualitative study enrolled a convenience sample of 19 participants from the parent prospective observational cohort study of IMGVs (n = 65). All participants in the parent study were invited to participate.

Setting. Boston Medical Center (BMC) is a private, not-for-profit, 496-bed, academic medical center and the largest safety net hospital in New England.

Subjects. Individuals in this study had a diagnosis of chronic pain and/or one or more chronic conditions (e.g., diabetes, depression, or metabolic syndrome), had attended ≥1 group visit, and their 8-week session had ended before completing the interview.

Methods. The authors conducted individual semi-structured interviews. Interviews were audio-taped, transcribed, and analyzed.

Results. Participants cite gains from IMGVs including improved self-monitoring, self-regulation, and increased mindfulness. The group setting leads patients to feel “not alone” in their health conditions, gain a sense of perspective on their health, and share coping strategies in a supportive network. These improvements in physical and mental health improved clinical outcomes for participants including reductions in pain.

Conclusions. Group visits and integrative medicine both offer some potential solutions in the treatment of chronic pain. Models such as IMGVs can help individuals living with chronic conditions, addressing their emotional and physical health needs.

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