by Jeannette Draper
Dr. Dorthe Gylling Crüger, president of the Danish Cancer Society, was recently in Oklahoma City to visit Integris Cancer Institute. Her goal was to seek inspiration for new hospital programs in her country that will incorporate patient-focused care by listening to what patients really want and expect from a hospital. Crüger is a trained specialist in clinical genetics and has worked as a specialist chief physician in Birmingham, England, and as a specialty chief at Vejle Hospital, in Vejle, Denmark.
Crüger’s trip was centered on how to treat and serve patients, with an eye toward integrative medicine. While some physicians go to conferences and meetings to gain scientific knowledge, Crüger and her colleagues’ visit to Integris was about service to people. She became aware of Integris while working with a faculty physician from Texas A&M University that visited Denmark. “I was quite amazed by the work he did, and he suggested we visit Oklahoma City and meet with the people [at Integris], as we have similar ideas in our work,” Crüger says.
Crüger explains that unlike the for-profit U.S. healthcare system, Denmark has a public system that is tax financed, and, as such, all citizens are included in the national healthcare service. Treatment is free for everyone but excludes some complementary services. “For example, acupuncture may be included, as it is a form of treating pain. We also have classes where we do meditation and yoga exercise, which is also part of the treatment. However, if someone wants to buy herbal tablets, those would be something the patient would have to purchase. We are trying to open the minds of our physicians and nurses to talk about this with the patients, because many cancer patients want to talk about these herbal supplements [but feel] the doctors are not open [to] discussing it and think they are just silly or may say, ‘That’s not proper medicine.’”
The Danish Council for Patients and Families has been exploring integrative treatment, and Crüger says the organization has won a prize for its innovative work. Members of the council visited a hospital in Switzerland known for its integrative treatments and complementary services. “It is very important for our patients and families to know more about complementary services,” she says. “They are also voicing the importance of communicating openly.”
Crüger and her associates at the Danish Council for Patients and Families recently started a campaign to encourage physicians to be open-minded about complementary care. “We want them to talk and help patients understand integrative medicine,” she says. “Some drugs may interfere with herbal medication; however, others may be just fine. The other side of the campaign is that patients understand it is okay to talk about it and be open with us. We will not judge.”
Crüger observes there is an increased interest in integrative medicine by Danish physicians, and they want to understand it better. Through online resources, she strives to educate the public about alternative care and its pros and cons. “Again, we want to reassure people what you can do and maybe what you shouldn’t do,” she says. “We are not trained in alternative care at universities; we are trained in medicine, so integrative care is becoming very much a part of what we are working on including in our programs.”
Jeannette Draper is the owner and publisher of Natural Awakenings of Oklahoma City.