resourcesABOUT MT AUTHOR GUIDELINES CLASSIFIEDS EDITORIAL CALENDAR MEDIA GUIDE MASSAGE MART SCHOOLS & EDUCATION FEEDBACK
Health and Wellness Partnership
Yo San University of Traditional Chinese Medicine and The Wellness Center at the LAC + USC Historic General Hospital recently joined forces to extend care to the residents of Boyle Heights area of Los Angeles.
The Rest of the Patient Story
I've written previously about allowing a patient to tell you their story – about taking the time to listen and engage all the aspects of their case history, the injury in question, and the related issues.
Energy: For Life and For Death
Energy is a deep topic in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Qi is understood to underlie all of existence, animated or not, and the qi of the living is studied with special attention.
Identify & Adjust the Apex Posterior Sacrum
Low back pain involving an apex posterior sacrum (+θX-axis misalignment) typically presents with signs of lumbosacral joint impingement or facet syndrome.
The Value of Melatonin in Breast Cancer Prevention and Adjunctive Treatment
Although melatonin (MLT) is best known for its sleep-aid properties and as a natural remedy to prevent jet lag, extensive experimental studies suggest it possesses anticancer activity through several biological mechanisms.
Filling the Gap: The Role of Alternative Practitioners in a Broken Health Care System
I have been asked many times what got me into alternative medicine. My answer is simple: I want to truly help and make a difference in people's health.
How Many of Your Patients Have Sarcopenia?
Figure 1 demonstrates the typical appearance of sarcopenia in the paravertebral muscles. Have you considered evaluating your patients for this problem? Sarcopenia is the progressive loss of skeletal muscle mass and function that affects the older population.
Constructing Our Reality: The Primary Channels and Perception, Part 1
My favorite topic of discussion within Chinese medicine is the acupuncture channel systems. First of all, each of us have them. They are part of our bodies; not something external to us. To learn about the acupuncture channels is to learn about ourselves.
Let's Streamline Your Front Desk
Your front office can be your greatest source of efficiency or a constant bottleneck. Increasing the productivity of this area without sacrificing the quality of patient interaction can be a little tricky.
An Interview with Amanda Shayle
JW: Can you share with us some of your history and how you became an acupuncturist? What did you do prior to becoming an acupuncturist? Where did you go to school?
News in Brief
Northwestern Student Honored for Addressing Concussions Head-On; Northwestern Announces New CFO; Life U. to Provide Unique Opportunity.
Roots in the Community, Branches Far Beyond
The Jung Tao School of Classical Chinese Medicine (JTS) was founded in 1998 by Sean Christian Marshall in Sugar Grove, North Carolina, a small community near Boone in the state's westernmost mountains.
Transparency is Key at ASA First Annual Meeting
On March 4th and 5th the American Society of Acupuncturists (ASA) held a successful first annual meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Excited to Share the Science of Chiropractic: An Interview With Dr. Heidi Haavik
Dr. Heidi Haavik has become known in the circle of chiropractic researchers as not only a rising star, but also one willing to do research that can have a major impact in the scientific world and how chiropractic is perceived.
F4CP Launches New Social Media Campaign
The Foundation for Chiropractic Progress has launched a new service to help member doctors: a social media campaign called "Accelerator."
Asking Patients the Right Questions
When was the last time you asked a patient a question? Maybe 30 seconds ago? But, are you asking the right questions to elicit valuable and useful information? As a healthcare provider, you've likely spent hundreds of hours learning to ask the right questions to gather critical health information from your patients.
Misconceptions & Opportunities With Medicare
As I speak around the country on how to properly document Medicare patient encounters, I get questions regarding opting out of Medicare. There are many misconceptions about opting out of Medicare, including just what it means to opt out.
NCCAOM Launches New Membership Organization
The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) recently launched a new national membership organization, the NCCAOM Academy of Diplomates.
Building Relationships and Referral Networks with Allopathic Practitioners
Dr. Doug, an orthopedist of 20 years, had heard stories from patients who tried acupuncture. While he was able to address many of their complaints effectively, some appeared to gain additional benefit when their care included TCM.
Day in the Life of an Advanced-Practice DC
Can you tell us a little about your background in the profession? Why did you want to become a DC? I studied at Boston University from 1968-1972 as a pre-med student majoring in biology.
Designing a Fitness Plan (Part 4): Blending Pain Relief With Healthy Aging
Pain relief is still the No. 1 reason patients come to my office. However, most of my patients have other goals as well, such as: "I want to lose 10 to 20 pounds"; "I feel old and want to slow down the aging process"; "My doctor says I am becoming a diabetic and need to exercise"; or "I'm tired and want more energy."
Specialized Pro-Resolving Mediators: 21st Century Inflammation Fighters
Specialized pro-resolving mediators, or SPMs, are a portion of the omega-3 fatty-acid spectrum that have been shown to have a powerful effect on reducing inflammation.
An Alarming Lack of Accountability
Accountability seems to be a lost quality today. The simple act of taking responsibility and doing the right thing just doesn't happen as often as it should. Maybe it is the litigious nature of our society.
The Art of Listening
One of the most important clinical concepts for me was voiced by the legendary physician William Osler. "Listen to your patient, he/she is telling you the diagnosis." After treating literally thousands of patients, it can become almost second nature to quickly discover clues which reveal the underlying diagnosis.
February, 2001, Vol. 01, Issue 02
Massage and Medicine?
By Cliff Korn, BS, LMT, NCTMB
I hope everyone found last month's issue of Massage Today informative and stimulating. Our profession is really coming into its own. In one of my volunteer roles, I recently had an opportunity to attend the International Spa Association Conference in Las Vegas.I was surprised to see that one of the "up and comers" in the spa world is the medical spa! Speaker Dr. Andrew Weil speculated that it was only a matter of time before there would be insurance coverage for spa services. He felt that the spas of tomorrow would be filling the void from all the small community hospitals that are now going bankrupt.
I'm wondering what all of you massage therapists employed in the spa industry think? Do you see a need for the medical spa? How about all of you therapists who work in a clinical setting now? Would you feel threatened by an expansion of medical spas?
These questions bring up another thought on massage and medicine. I see more and more attention being paid to the advent of insurance companies and third-party "middleman" companies establishing networks of massage therapists into "affinity" groups. They are calling these networks "approved providers" or other such terms which indicate to target markets that therapists within the particular network are credentialed to a standard, or have otherwise passed a vetting process, to provide superior care to a consumer.
One of Massage Today's columnists writes a monthly column on working within the insurance/managed care world. Another has written on the perils of becoming involved in that world. I am grateful that they both are contributing to this publication, as it clearly demonstrates several divergent choices we can make within the touch therapy field.
In this article, I'd like to explore further the role of these networks in our future. The networks are developed for two types of programs: benefit and access. Benefit programs are the traditional health coverage plans that provide specific benefits to subscribers. They include types of conditions covered, copayment criteria, number of treatments allowed per year, etc. These programs usually require providers working within the plan to obtain prior treatment authorization, and to agree not to charge their clients more than a predetermined copayment or deductible. Therapists working under a benefit plan are paid according to an agreed-upon "fee schedule." The number of benefit plans including massage therapy is negligible.
Access programs are not designed to pay for covered benefits. Consumer subscribers can be treated for any condition (or no condition at all) and pay out-of-pocket for the bodywork sessions. Prior authorization is not likely to be required. Therapists working under an access plan are paid by the client at a rate that is discounted from the rate charged for non-subscribers. Access plans are growing at a steady rate. Some would say they are growing at an alarming rate!
The rest of my examination of this phenomenon will consider the access plans only. The benefit plans have not yet reached enough critical mass within the massage field to warrant more than theoretical discussion; and in fairness, if they are going to pay for a service, they have a right to determine what it is that they are willing to pay for. I hope to look at the access plans based upon the credentialing process used to select therapists to populate their provider networks; the fairness to massage therapists and bodyworkers (the approved providers); and the integrity/honesty used to market their services.
I begin by suggesting that the very fact that this discussion needs to take place at all is good for our profession. It means that we have obtained enough economic "critical mass" to catch the interest of outsiders as a potential for enhancing their profitability. The determination still has to be made, however, as to whether or not this enhances the profitibility of the massage and bodywork profession.
Credentials: The word brings mixed reactions from practitioners. Some regard credentials as professional collector's items the more obtained, the better while others see them as an excuse by others to overstate dubious qualifications by virtue of a framed wall decoration. All of the access programs I have seen populate their networks by a selection process. One, in its brochure to massage therapists, states: "We are committed to educating the managed care industry on the value of massage therapy and assisting managed care companies and employers in offering high-quality massage therapy networks."
To me, that statement means that the selected participants are credentialed to a standard, so that the standard measures equal "high-quality" in differing geographical areas. The selection process of some involves a site visit from a review committee. Most involve a questionnaire outlining training and specialization. All want to know that a prospective provider is practicing legally within a jurisdiction. None (that I have seen) are very forthright with the actual "checklist" used in their selection criteria. The assumption I am left to make is that inclusion in a particular plan's network, in and of itself, is to be considered a credential.
Fairness. A fairly common theme among massage therapists is that they enjoy a fair amount of autonomy in their practice. Many enjoy working for themselves setting their own rules, prices, and hours, and establishing who they will take as clients and how they will interact with them in a session. A common thread in the arguments I hear against massage regulation and/or national certification is that an outside party is pushing an agenda or establishing its definitions and procedures in the practitioners' business. From my viewpoint, this argument holds for access plans in spades! One marketing brochure lists as a reason for a massage therapist to join: "Reasonable fee schedules for participating massage therapists." I ask, reasonable to whom?
This same plan caps fees that participating therapists can charge at $45. I see massage fees across the country ranging from $30.00 to $120.00. Is a cap of $45.00 reasonable? Certainly not to many. Another clause in the services agreement of an access plan company states, "Participating Massage Therapist shall provide an appointment for a Participant within seven (7) days of receiving a request for appointment." Now I don't know how busy your practice is, but a new client in mine will routinely have to wait three to four weeks for an appointment. If they need a late afternoon timeslot, they'll wait longer than that. Is it fair that I should have to see more clients per day than my (old!) body can comfortably handle to meet the contractual requirements of an access plan? Is it fair that I should not see full paying, private-pay clients so that I can meet disounted-rate clients on a short notice?
Another clause of the same agreement states, "Participating Massage Therapist agrees to furnish Access Services to Participants of any Payor upon request, . . ." Is it fair that this would likely preclude a practitioner specializing in maternity massage or battered women massage or gender specific massage from client determination?
Integrity/Honesty. Finally, I question the marketing tactics of the network-building firms. One touts: No fees to participate - No application fee - No membership fee - No recredentialing fee - No provider education fee - No onsite office evaluation fee. Why, I ask, should anyone charge a fee when they are requiring me to heavily discount my charges? They further say, "Access programs encourage members to utilize participating massage therapists. Member pays massage therapist directly. Massage therapist offers modest discount (25% off retail charges)." Really, this was in their marketing brochure! In most professions a 3% income increase is considered modest. Why is it that a 25% decrease in income should be considered "modest" to massage therapists?
OK, so my biases have been showing! The fact is that these programs aren't going away anytime soon. The names associated with plans like this are Blue Cross, Kaiser Permanente, Prudential, Aetna, CIGNA, Zurich, etc. Certainly individual therapists and the professional associations can, and should, educate those establishing networks in the issues that support growth of massage therapy. I think a colleague of mine put it best when he said:
"From what I've seen, we can only beat them, join them or ignore them. I don't think ignoring them is what we want to do, and I do not know how to beat them. My conclusions are simplistic, but how much energy should we invest in fighting this trend? I don't think we can stop them from going forward with this service, so maybe we can ride along with them and influence their standards."
So what do you think?
Massage Today encourages letters to the editor to discuss matters relating to the publication's content. Letters may be published in a future issue of Massage Today. Please send all correspondence by e-mail to
, or by regular mail to the address listed below:
Former editor of Massage Today, Cliff is owner of Windham Health Center Neuromuscular Therapy LLC. He is nationally certified in therapeutic massage & bodywork and is licensed as a massage therapist by the states of New Hampshire and Florida. Cliff is a member of the International Association of Healthcare Practitioners; a professional member and past president of the New Hampshire chapter of the American Massage Therapy Association; a certified member of the Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals, Inc.; and a past chairman of the board of directors of the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork.
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