I recently gave a commencement talk at Northwestern Health Sciences University, the day before Episode One of the last season of Game of Thrones. I chose to inject the sacredness of that day by referencing that other world by presenting the landscape of health and medicine that the graduates were entering as a jockeying between three Houses. In power on the Iron Throne: the House of Volume/Industry. The other two Houses are each insurgencies: the House of Integrative Health and the House of Value-Based Medicine. Can this life-and-death game play out favorably with an alliance between the two insurgencies in a field of health creation?
Spoiler alert. The title of a recent column marking the 10th anniversary of Triple Aim efforts to move medical payment and delivery from volume toward value makes no bones about the effort’s shortcomings. This report card from the Triple Aim’s top cheer-leader is meaningful to the high touch, human-intensive movement for integrative health and medicine for one important reason: the field’s potential uptake is pegged to advance of the values orientation. Success is more broadly meaningful because the values-based war against the forces in the industry that causally associate it with 250,000 medical deaths each year – effectively medicine’s white walkers in Game of Thrones terms – is the bullseye point of reference on what is at stake.
For the past half decade, the Academy of Integrative Pain Management (AIPM) has carried the policy mantle for integrative pain treatment into ever more influential places. The beacons were the 2017 and 2018 Integrative Pain Care Policy Congress. The most recent convened 70 stakeholder organizations, including key payers and federal agencies. On January 29, 2019, AIPM announced that it has ceased operations. Amidst the present opportunities for transforming pain treatment, the integrative pain field lost its engine. Oddly, the very challenges to the pharma industry in the center of the dominant pain model were part of AIPM’s undoing.
An organization that sees its mission as larger than its present reach hits natural barriers if it uses an association management firm. The management organization is not an “association growing” firm. Nor is the firm devoted solely to the association. In fact, the management firm’s financial incentive structure is akin to that of a fitness center: the best member is one who pays dues and never requires anything. It’s job is to manage and control something that, optimally is passionate, dynamic, and slightly out of control because it is actively flourishing in multiple directions. These disparate tendencies came to mind as good news arrived December 21, 2018 – Solstice Day – that arguably the most powerful engine in the integrative space, the Academic Consortium for Integrative Medicine and Health (“the Consortium”), completed a transition away from an association management firm to its first, 100% time, fully devoted executive director.