Whole-person care is somewhat of a controversial topic these days. Connotations of employee wellness programs gone wrong and images of snake oil salesmen may come to mind for many - both patients and healthcare providers.
While those problems and others certainly exist and add ambiguity to how to provide whole person care, this kind of approach is a growing area of study that’s proving the benefits of holistic care for both patients and providers.
1. Patients can take an active role in wellness
Chronic illness has a profound effect on patients in more than just physical health. In some, it can create a feeling of helplessness that results in decreased motivation.
Patients living with a chronic disease - or patients at risk of developing one - need motivation and support to help them manage their health. Whole-person care enables patients to take a self-manage their health by empowering them to play an active role in their health.
By removing feelings of helplessness and encouraging hopefulness, clinicians, health coaches, and peers empower patients to improve their health.
2. Helps improve all areas of life for better health
- Emotional health
- Occupational health
- Physical health
- Spiritual health
- Intellectual health
- Social health
Other studies add a few dimensions including financial, environmental, and creative wellness. By facilitating patient health from different angles, patients are enabled to improve all factors that impact long-term health.
While improving physical health is a part of whole-person care, comprehensive treatment operates on the principle that patient health is more complex than bodily symptoms. As such, patients need to be enabled to grow in all areas that affect their health and lifestyle choices.
3. Addresses patients’ mental and emotional barriers
Many patients struggling with chronic conditions, whether low risk or high risk, are also faced with internal struggles as well. Dealing with symptoms can be overwhelming and unsurprizingly 50% of patients living with a chronic illness will experience depression.
Whole-person care addresses these mental and emotional barriers to health. At Melon, we connect patients with peer communities that provide social support which can help overcome some of the anxiety and depression that is often associated with chronic disease. Online support groups are uniquely situated to help other patients recognize and seek help for emotional struggles encountered along the way.
4. Encourages and sustains patient motivation
When it comes to chronic diseases, sustaining motivation is no easy feat. It requires endurance akin to a marathon as opposed to a sprint. Whole-person wellness enables patients to continue making behavior changes that last for the long-run.
With support systems such as professional support and peer communities, patients have a solid foundation for lifestyle adjustments. Health coaches help patients create goals that won’t overwhelm yet also allow patients to experience progress slowly and steadily.
Small incremental progress is easier to achieve and it’s these small successes, that give patients the confidence they can reach their goals sustaining motivation along the way.
5. Prevents the progression of chronic symptoms
The goal of whole-person care isn’t to replace clinicians. Rather, the objective is to extend medical effectiveness further into the lives of patients by influencing multiple health factors. With a whole-person wellness approach, patients can self-manage to slow or prevent the progression of common chronic diseases.
For instance, health coaches can help patients combat obesity or depression by setting goals for more physical activity. In this way, coaches can prevent or delay worsening effects of chronic disease such as heart attacks.
6. Develop patients’ self-awareness
Another reason why patients need whole-person care is because it develops awareness. As patients grow in their ability to recognize and offset symptoms, they’re better suited to manage their illness in the long-run.
In addition, as they interact with health coaches and peer groups, they’ll be better equipped to notice onsets of depression or anxiety that could worsen their current illness. By developing this awareness, patients can decrease the likelihood of comorbidities including diseases such as heart conditions or diabetes.
7. Encourages patients to grow in knowledge and skills
This emphasis on whole-person care encourages patients to engage with their health beyond their routine visits to their primary care doctor. As patients learn about their disease and develop skills to minimize its progression, they’ll be more likely to advance their quality of life.
Interaction between peers can also help patients grow in knowledge. Online reciprocal communities offer a space where patients can learn from the successes and failures of others. And, as they learn, they’ll be better able to innovate solutions for their own symptom management.
Whole-person care offers patients an opportunity to better their health situation. With the advice and support of medical professionals, peers, and health coaches, those with chronic disease can better self-manage their condition for improved quality of life.
Discover how to provide tech-enabled whole person care. Chat with a patient engagement strategist today.