The National Institutes of Health has awarded $2.4 million to Allina Hospitals & Clinics to study the impact of integrative and mind/body therapies on pain management for patients at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, Minn.

The Penny George Institute for Health and Healing and the Center for Healthcare Innovation at Allina received the grant and will conduct the study.

"Integrative medicine emphasizes a full range of personalized healthy lifestyle approaches that tend to physical, emotion, social, and spiritual well-being. This is right in line with Allina's mission and strategy to extend beyond responding to illness to a new level of supporting optimal health and preventing illness," said Penny Wheeler, MD, chief clinical officer, Allina Hospitals & Clinics.

According to the group's 2010 article in the Journal of Patient Safety, integrative therapies reduced pain by 56 percent, and 33 percent of patients reported complete pain relief after one visit by an integrative therapist.

But that study left questions that researchers hope this study will answer: which patients benefit best from which therapies and for how long can pain be managed with non-pharmacologic methods?

"This study will give us data to help anticipate the needs of patients and provide integrative therapies when and where they are most effective," said Jeffery Dusek, PhD, the principal investigator of the grant and Allina's research director for integrative medicine.

Instead of a randomized controlled trial, this observational study will examine the impact of integrative therapies as they are used for pain management in the real world of a hospital setting.

"We have to look at integrative therapies in the context of a complex medical environment. Patients are hospitalized for a variety of clinical reasons, receive a number of therapies and experience and respond to pain differently," Dusek said.

The Penny George Institute for Health and Healing at Abbott Northwestern Hospital is the nation's largest inpatient integrative program and has served more than 19,000 patients since 2004.