Bringing Evidence to Alternative Medicine: The BEAM Project
Chinese culture has existed for millenia. Their approach to medicine evolved over the course of 5,000 years of their civilization’s history.
One of the main tenets of their approach to healing is to focus on “blockages” in the body. Many Chinese healers understand that intense trauma or pain can disrupt the normal states of our body, and remain a source of chronic pain long after the visible injuries have healed.
In my practice at the Seekers Centre, this concept has been a gold mine for treating my patients. My life’s work is to make the study and treatment of blockages an accepted part of traditional or Western medicine.
That’s why I started The BEAM Project, or Bringing Evidence to Alternative Medicine.
Evidence has never been more important to our society, and this is especially true in the realm of medicine. As a result, all the healing professions are looking for credibility in the eyes of Medicare and insurance companies. Funders want to know what works and what doesn’t.
This puts many forms of alternative or integrative healing in a difficult position. If there has been a study done proving that one of these treatments are useless, then that’s meaningful. But there’s no proof that most of these things are useless. And I doubt that 100 percent of “unproven” treatments have nothing to add to health care.
This is where The BEAM Project comes in. The aim is to collect data about the effectiveness of many forms of alternative medicine using the advanced technology and data analysis now available.
It’s still in the early stages, but the ultimate goal is to have an app that patients want to use because it gives them valuable information about what treatments work and what treatments do not.
We conducted a pilot study of the app in November and December of 2020 at the Seekers Centre in Ottawa. We used it exclusively to judge the effectiveness of the Seekers Method, an self-care technique I developed that combines movement, breath, touch and awareness to learn to find and release the restrictions in fascia that limit your free movement. Those restrictions in fascia typically persist after injuries or trauma to those areas.
We used the app for patients who took 12 sessions of the Seekers Method over a six-week period.
During this pilot study, my staff and I learned a lot about how to collect data. We learned how cumbersome it is to get patients to give you data when you ask them to fill out a form. If you want patients to give you accurate information, you have to figure out how to make it fun for them. This is called gamification.
When you go to a doctor and they ask you how many bad days you had last month, you can vaguely estimate it, but if you have a month’s worth of data that was collected in real time, that data is more reliable and meaningful. This is a question that all researchers need an answer to: How do we obtain the best and most accurate information from patients about the actual effectiveness of health care treatments?
I think this app could be an important step toward a solution to this problem.
Now we’re in the second phase of development. Now that we’ve tested it with the Seekers Method, we are aiming to document all of the treatments we do at the clinic using this technology.
We’re going to turn our patients into the incubator study group. We’re hoping to demonstrate that over time we get better and better at getting them to give us data.
Ultimately, I hope to make this app available to all alternative medicine practitioners because a lot of these people are doing great work and they don’t get any recognition.
But the most important outcome would be improving our effectiveness in helping people feel better. Even after so many years as a doctor, that still feels like the best way I can make the world a healthier place, for all of us.