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America's healthiest hospitals: these hospitals offer the best care for your body and soul

A HOSPITAL STAY IS RARELY SOMETHING to look forward to. But across the country, a growing number of facilities are transforming what it means to be an inpatient. Along with full-service conventional care, these hospitals offer natural therapies like acupuncture, guided imagery, and massage as adjunct or stand-alone treatments. They also boast a staff of open-minded doctors and nurses and feature warm, comfortable interiors.

Natural Health looked high and low for these innovative hospitals, polling more than so leaders in the field of natural medicine. To make our short list, hospitals had to be full-service, have 100 or more beds, and offer at least 10 alternative therapies. We also considered the scope of their complementary program (how many patients seen per month) and their level of patient financial assistance. Read on about our winners.

1 California Pacific Medical Center

SAN FRANCISCO

Services

BEDS: 1,250
SCOPE: Treats 2,000 people with
complementary medicine monthly
NATURAL THERAPHIES INCLUDE:
  Acupuncture
  Craniosacral Therapy
  Herbal Medicine
  Jinsin Jitsu (acupressure)
  Reiki
  Traditional Chinese Medicine

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

History

We gave highest honors to California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) for its Institute for Health and Healing, which has the oldest holistic roots of our five picks. The hospital's involvement in complementary medicine began more than 20 years ago and grew out of the "extremely rich and diverse" healing tradition of the San Francisco Bay area, explains William Stewart, M.D., medical director of the Institute for Health and Healing. It also developed from one patient's enlightened idea. In 1978, local community activist Angelica Thierot was hospitalized at a San Francisco medical center that is now part of CPMC. Dismayed at the facility's impersonal and rushed atmosphere, Thierot approached its chief of medicine with a vision: Create a hospital that has a nurturing, spalike environment and teaches patients and their families to stay well in the first place. The chief of medicine liked Thierot's ideas so much he asked her to form a planning board of lay people and health care professionals. Eventually, the board created an inpatient ward that employed a blend of physical, mental, and spiritual healing techniques. Called the Planetree Unit, it later became a nonprofit organization that today trains dozens of hospitals across the United States who want to adopt holistic therapies.

CPMC received national media attention in 1998 for its research on remote healing (such as praying for other people). The study, published in the Western Journal of Medicine, found that advanced AIDS patients who received remote healing required 85 percent fewer days of hospitalization than those who received no prayers. Currently, researchers at the hospital are studying acupuncture for acute stroke.

What Sets It Apart

In spite of its large size, the hospital takes great pains to present an intimate, inviting atmosphere to incoming patients. For instance, people entering the main entrance find a 36-foot-wide labyrinth painted on the concrete walkway; patients are encouraged to walk this circular maze daily to help them meditate and heal faster. The hospital staff plays a videotape in all patients' rooms after they arrive to introduce them to available conventional and natural therapies. Any CPMC patient can get guided imagery, spiritual counseling, and expressive art therapy free of charge. (Other therapies, like acupuncture, are available for a fee but may be subsidized by the institute's $30,000 patient assistance fund.)

We also ranked CPMC high because it runs several education programs to keep community members healthy. For example, once a year, 500 to 1,000 people attend a free eight-week evening "mini medical school" that covers conventional and natural health topics. CPMC also offers 36 six- to 10-week seminars, such as senior yoga and mindfulness meditation, for a small fee. For those who can't afford to pay, a scholarship program covers the cost.

BONUS: CPMC has the only holistic gift shop of our top five hospitals. Instead of candy and fake flowers, the Healing Store sells vitamins and supplements, meditation cushions, yoga mats, and more.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: California Pacific Medical Center's Institute for Health and Healing; 415-600-3660; www.cpmc.org

2 Midwestern Regional Medical Center/ Cancer Treatment Centers of America

ZION, ILL

Services

BEDS: 95

SCOPE: Treats 54 people with Complementary medicine monthly

NATURAL THERAPIES INCLUDE:

Homeopathy

Laughter/Humor Therapy

Naturopathic Medicine

Nutritional Therapy

Reflexology

Tai Chi

History

In the early part of the 1970s, Richard Stephenson, an investment banker from Barrington, Ill., lost his mother to cancer. In 1975, appalled by the quality of care she had received, he invested money to recruit top cancer specialists and other doctors to form a full-service community hospital in the small town of Zion, Ill., 45 miles north of Chicago.

Now called the Midwestern Regional Medical Center (MRMC), the hospital still specializes in cancer care; two-thirds of its patients come for cancer treatment. In fact, its oncology department became known as the Cancer Treatment Centers of America in 1988 and has since exported its idea of complementary cancer care to hospitals in Goshen, Ind., and Tulsa, Okla., and clinics in Hampton Roads, Va., and Seattle. At MRMC and these satellite locations, mind-body therapies, nutritional supplements, and naturopathic medicine are a standard part of cancer treatment (in addition to conventional methods such as radiation and chemotherapy). These holistic therapies are also available to all other inpatients.

Today, any patient at MRMC can select a naturopathic doctor as his or her primary care provider. And the hospital pharmacy stocks herbs, supplements, and homeopathic remedies, as well as conventional drugs.

What Sets It Apart

When we asked our panel of natural health experts to name the complementary hospital program they most admired, they most commonly cited the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, headquartered at MRMC. Even though the flagship hospital fell five beds short of our 100-bed minimum, we gave it extra credit for being so well regarded. "They have the most effective and comprehensive integration of complementary and alternative medicine of any hospital that I am aware of in the country," says Joseph E. Pizzorno Jr., N.D., a naturopathic physician and co-founder of Bastyr University in Kenmore, Wash.

Patients at MRMC have a strong say in how the hospital operates. When the hospital expanded in 1992, a patient focus group requested--and got--such amenities as outdoor views from every patient room, hardwood floors and paneling, and a rooftop solarium. And the lobby has marble floors and a chandelier. You'd never guess that the entrance belongs to a medical facility, says Julie Martin, N.D., a naturopathic physician at MRMC. "Patients say how much it feels like a hotel."

All patients, no matter their religion, are encouraged to use prayer as part of the healing process. Doctors, nurses, and other staff members often initiate healing prayers with hospital patients and their families. "Using faith as a healing tool is an important aspect of what the hospital offers," says Martin.

BONUS: MRMC delivers complementary therapies to admitted patients regardless of the type of insurance coverage they might have. When insurance does not fully cover complementary therapies, MRMC frequently absorbs a good share of those costs.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Cancer Treatment Centers of America; 800-577-1255; www.cancercenter.com

3 Longmonth United Hospital 3 LONGMONT, COLO.

Services

BEDS: 143

SCOPE: Treats 660 people with complementary medicine monthly

NATURAL THERAPIES INCLUDE:

Alexander Technique

Art Therapy

Craniosacral Therapy

Guided Imagery

Osteopathy

Pet Therapy

History

The natural medicine program at Longmont testifies to the power of patients to demand and receive holistic care. In 1993, Michelle Bowman, a certified gerontology nurse at Longmont, located in a suburb of Boulder, Colo., formed a community focus group of 12 older adults and former patients to find out how the small conventional hospital could do better. The group advocated for programs that didn't just treat illness, but that promoted wellness, like tai chi, massage therapy, and herbal medicine.

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