Collaboration with Allied Health Professionals

When you look at the title of this month’s theme “Collaboration with Allied Health Professionals”, it’s certainly a mouth full. I certainly had to step back and read it a few times for it to “sink in” and understand the meaning. We hear buzzwords every day in the news, Integrated Medicine, Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), and with President Obama pushing for Healthcare Reform, I’m sure we’ll be learning some new buzzwords. Your primary goal is to stay educated. Talk to your clients to see what their needs are, in keeping your clients returning and paying you for massage.

I was lucky to be invited to Bastyr University’s 2009 graduation. Bastyr is recognized globally for its rigorous education and strong research. We are very lucky and privileged to have such a University in our neighborhood. Wayne B Jonas, MD spoke to the graduates on “Putting Healing in the Health Reform”. I was so surprised that this MD was talking about integrated medicine. Not only did he talk about it, but researching his background, he used it and got an honorary Degree from Bastyr University this day. He is currently a health advisor on the Wellness Initiative for the Nation (WIN).

When interviewed by the President of Bastyr University

What role do you think integrative medicine will play in the future of our nation’s health care system?

Integrative medicine will have a slow and steady growth and will increasingly become part of our health care system. William James said if you want to see what the future is going to look like, you need to pay attention to things in the periphery. Natural medicine remains in the periphery, but it holds the seeds for what is necessary to create a healthy society and improve health care delivery. The growth will be slow because people are unfamiliar with Natural Medicine and the body of evidence to support it is modest and still growing. It will definitely not go away because it holds the core parts of many of the reforms that are needed for effective health care delivery.


Integrated Medicine is defined as a combination of mainstream medical therapies and CAM therapies for which there is some high-quality scientific evidence of safety and effectiveness. Massage therapy falls within this realm and we all know it works, but getting the scientific evidence is always a challenge.



We as healthcare providers should rally behind this phrase “Collaboration with Allied Health Professionals.” First of all, collaboration is defined as “to work together, especially in a joint intellectual effort.” In treatment of our clients for their injuries, relaxation, or chronic pain, we usually have a medical provider refer the patient. Whether it’s an insurance claim or the person paying out of pocket, informing the other practitioners that are working on the patient is collaboration. Get your patient to sign a medical release so you can speak, write, email or fax the other medical practitioners as well as obtain information from one another. Most important, if you know your client is seeing other medical practitioners ask them how and when the last treatment was and plan your treatment plan based on the answers.

What it all means for Massage Therapists?

We, as therapists, need to do the research, communicate to doctors, and show that we are proud of our profession and show to others that we have value in the Healthcare arena. I hear many times that Spa work is not medical treatment and that only if you get certified in “Medical Massage” is the treatment “medical”. Remember, every time you touch someone either on the table, hugging a friend, or holding someone’s hand, you have a physiological effect as well as a psychological one. Whether that physiological affect boosts there immune system or helps repair an injury, you can’t deny that you have this effect.

Creating a relationship with the doctors, chiropractors and ND’s that refer to you on a regular basis is collaboration. Creating this relationship makes everyone’s job easier in treating the patient. Being able to pick up the phone and call the doctor’s office, asking a question or raising a concern, creates unity in the continuity of care of the patient. Remember that the patient care comes first.

What does Collaboration look like?

Collaboration is about communication. Collaboration is writing doctor treatment summaries and creating a relationship with the doctors, chiropractors and ND’s that refer patients to you.

  1. HIPPA requires us to get a signed consent before talking about a patient’s health while in our care. Make sure your office has a form that is easy to understand and the patient can have a copy if required.
  2. If you work with insurance providers, you have to get a prescription for massage. You have the primary information regarding all the contact information for the Doctor.
  3. If you know the person is seeing a PT, Occupational therapist, or Acupuncturists, you need to have a medical release to contact these providers as well. Seems like a lot of paperwork to be signed, but it’s beneficial in the long term.
  4. Sharing information between the providers turns into integrated and continuity of care for the patient. For example, the PT reports to you that they just worked the tendons of the rotator cuff in your clients shoulder yesterday. You certainly wouldn’t go to the same spot and work the same tendons. That would be over treatment and cause more damage. You would work on the supporting muscles to help support the rotator cuff. Maybe do ice massage on the tendons. Doing an accurate intake by asking the questions, “What did your PT do yesterday?” or “What parts did your chiropractor adjust and how did you feel afterwards?”
  5. Creating and tracking SOAP charts of every visit proves to the other medical professionals that Massage Therapists are serious about joining the Allied Healthcare Professionals. Would you want to walk into your doctor’s office and they didn’t have any history about your last visit?
  6. At the end of the 6 – 8 visits, you need to sit down and do a summary of treatment. Basics of this document should have the following pieces:
    1. Patient Information
    2. Initial Assessment – Your assessment should be done at the beginning (Initial Assessment) and last treatment (Client Status) of the prescription.
    3. Treatment Summary
    4. Client Status – You just finished the last treatment of the prescription and did the same assessment as you did in the beginning and should see improvement or not. Sometimes our clients have setbacks during our care and we need to note that. (Don’t be afraid to ask for more treatments if you think this is necessary. You will be surprised what the doctors will say and do. Make sure you include a pre-written prescription for the doctor to just sign and fax back to you.)

This summary of treatment can be in any form as long as it’s clear what you have done and the status of the client. Make sure you have your contact information on this document.


In a perfect healthcare reform, we would see more of us working with each other and choosing the best treatment plan for a patient, whether its physical therapy, acupuncture or massage. Communicating better about the patient’s care shows that we are willing to collaborate and be a part of Healthcare system.