WHAT HOLISTIC CARE REALLY MEANS
Holistic care has often been used to describe alternatives to modern medicine, including solutions from the mainstream to the highly unusual. This association with the unknown and unproven leads many to discount the term altogether. In reality, while holistic care may include alternative medicine, its focus is the person’s entire health and all of the factors that contribute to it. And as disparate as the two approaches may seem, the recent boom in healthcare technology means that true holistic medicine is easier than ever to achieve.
HOW TECH DRIVES HOLISTIC CARE
The greatest strength of holistic medicine is to promote health equity by considering every factor contributing to an individual’s health, including the many social determinants of health. Mental wellness, food scarcity, vitamin deficiencies, access to education and transportation… A litany of societal and economic factors shape our overall health, and each factor’s weight and relevance varies from individual to individual. Holistic medicine promotes truly individualized care that ensures every patient receives the best care for them personally.
We can leverage technology to help capture these factors, tracking a patient’s health history across disparate systems and applying population health knowledge specific to the individual’s local community. Tools like Syntranet collect data and track trends to provide health systems with smart solutions and algorithmic planning for their population’s needs. Providing language interpreters with a depth of cultural knowledge, like the medically trained staff at Martti, empowers care providers with a deeper understanding of a patient’s circumstances.
A BIG PIECE OF THE PUZZLE: MENTAL HEALTH CARE
The impetus of the COVID-19 pandemic has both accelerated telehealth adoption and created multiple health crises and aftershocks that require constant adaptability from the industry. One such aftershock is the increased prevalence of mental illness and addiction. A recent study concluded that the pandemic was responsible for an increase in major depressive disorder of 10.7 million people globally. COVID-19 has had an immense negative impact on mental health in our communities, isolating those who already struggle to reach out and ask for help (Elsevier Ltd.). Individuals dealing with addiction and substance abuse struggled as resources became more difficult to access, and many grew even more dependent on substances to cope. In the early months of the pandemic, overdoses increased by 18% nationally (Abramson).
Holistic healthcare delivery models are imperative to address this looming mental health crisis. Specifically, a focus on hybrid models of care and whole-person health, including medicine, therapy, nutrition, and addressing social determinants of health, are critical components that contribute to more successful treatment plans.
As we further integrate technology into healthcare, we can get a clearer picture of each individual’s health and enable better care at every point along the care continuum. Telehealth makes appointments more accessible, and undeniably bolsters therapy and psychiatric visits. Emergency room and bedside devices bring language interpreters to Limited English Proficient and Deaf/hard-of-hearing patients, no matter the language. In-hospital devices keep care teams connected, and can deliver specialist care over any distance. Technology reduces readmissions, simplifies follow-up appointments, and aggregates data in a way that paints a fuller picture of patient histories. Technology truly powers holistic medicine by connecting all of those dots into a detailed account of each patient’s health.
Abramson, Ashley. “Substance Use during the Pandemic.” Monitor on Psychology, American Psychological Association, https://www.apa.org/monitor/2021/03/substance-use-pandemic.
Elsevier Ltd. “Global Prevalence and Burden of Depressive and Anxiety Disorders in 204 Countries and Territories in 2020 Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Define_me, 8 Oct. 2021, https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(21)02143-7/fulltext.