The effectiveness of integrative healthcare for chronic disease: A systematic review

Matthew J. Leach, Heather Eaton, Tamara Elizabeth Agnew, Manisha Thakkar, Marlene Louise Wiese

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The past few decades have witnessed a surge in consumer, clinician and academic interest in the field of integrative healthcare (IHC). Yet, there is still uncertainty regarding the effectiveness of IHC for complex, long-term health conditions. Objective: To assess the effectiveness of IHC for the management of any chronic health condition. Methods: Seven databases and four clinical trial registries were searched from inception through to May 2018 for comparative/controlled clinical trials investigating the effectiveness of IHC for any chronic disease, and assessing any outcome. Risk of bias was assessed using the Cochrane Collaboration Risk of Bias tool. Results: The search yielded 6,926 results. Eight studies met the inclusion criteria. All studies had at least three design features that carried an uncertain/high risk of bias. Differences in physiological, psychological and functional outcomes, and quality of life between patients receiving IHC and patients receiving conventional/usual care were varied and inconsistent. Changes in patient satisfaction with care were inconclusive. No studies reported the effectiveness of IHC on workforce- or administration-related parameters. Evidence from one trial suggested IHC may be more cost-effective than conventional care. Conclusions: The findings indicate some promising effects for the use of IHC to manage chronic disease. However, the uncertain/high risk of bias across multiple domains, diverse and inconsistent findings, and heterogeneity of outcome measures and study populations prevents firm conclusions from being reached. Along with conducting further well-designed, long-term studies in this field, there is a need to ensure interventions closely align with the definition/principles of IHC.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13321
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Clinical Practice
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019


  • chronic disease
  • integrative healthcare
  • integrative medicine
  • systematic review


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