Susan E. Mazer, Ph.D. Blog

Thoughts and ideas on healthcare

Hi, and welcome to my blog! I'm Susan E. Mazer -- a knowledge expert and thought leader on how the environment of care impacts the patient experience. Topics I write about include safety, satisfaction, hospital noise, nursing, care at the bedside, and much more. Subscribe below to get email notices so you won't miss any great content.

A New Look at Whole Person Care

January 5, 2018

Whole Person Care

This is the patient who needs more than insulin and a prescribed diet.

This past year, healthcare has taken both steps forward and steps back.

In many ways, healthcare leaders remain stuck and unable to agree on what the major issues are: disease or cost? Staffing or safety? Population health or reimbursement?

Improving Health With Whole Person Care

In a recent post on Managed HealthCare Executive, healthcare CEO Leanne Berge calls for a new look at Whole Person Care as perhaps the only way to significantly improve the health of our communities and the well-being of patients.

The real-time care of a patient with complex health issues calls for attention to the social and economic context in which the patient lives on a daily basis.  Berge warns “Unless we reduce the siloed approach to service delivery and broaden our view of what influences health, we will never see meaningful change in healthcare costs and outcomes.”

My post last month also touched on social determinants of health and the broader meaning of population health. Considering only the visible or reported symptoms that a patient brings into the doctor’s office is risky.

Who Has the Power to Heal?

Whether our current organizational cultures have the capacity to offer Whole Person Care is a more crucial question.

How about if we dismiss the concept that the power to heal resides solely within the medical domain?

In looking at Whole Person Care, Berge points to two steps that can move us closer to the goals of improving long-term outcomes and reducing costs.

First, by incentivizing Whole Person Care and investing in the required time and resources, emergency department visits can be reduced. Health crisis can be avoided.

In other words, invest and save.

She explains that at the Community Health Plan of Washington (CHPW), traditional medical, pharmacy, and behavioral health and social services are brought to the patient through an assigned community health worker with whom he or she has a direct and personal relationship.

Second, preparing or integrating services requires efficient and intentional communication and sharing of all information about the patient across all of these services.

Right now, electronic medical records systems remain proprietary and the patient suffers when the information is stuck. And, much more detailed coordination and collaboration among providers is required.  And, this is also about patient safety.

Whole Person Care is Beyond Patient-Centered Care

Whole Person Care requires that the concept of “patient” is more than a set of symptoms and a medical record; that health is about a whole life.  It demands that healthcare providers pay attention and address not only the patient on the street who is diabetic but also identify his or her homelessness as life-threatening.

It is time for healthcare providers to deliver what they promise.

The good news is that within our communities, we have who and what we need.  It’s time to not just pay good health forward but to invest in Whole Person Care and save on both costs and lives.

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